It’s usually delusional to think of people on TV or movie screens as your old friends. But not for “Legion” star Aubrey Plaza.
About a decade ago, before her big break on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” Plaza worked alongside a jaw-dropping number of other young actors also destined for stardom. They included Aziz Ansari, Donald Glover, Ellie Kemper, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, and several members of the “Silicon Valley” cast — plus about two dozen more names you’ll recognize.
Plaza listed them for us in the video above, and damn. She crossed paths with a lot of funny people.
Were Plaza and her old cohorts part of a secret laboratory designed to incubate comedy genius? Kind of. They studied and performed together at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, an underground stage that extended beneath a Gristedes grocery store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. It was famously founded by an original UCB team that included “Veep” star Matt Walsh and “Saturday Night Live” vet Amy Poehler. Poehler, of course, enlisted Plaza, Ansari and fellow UCB vet Ben Schwartz for her seven-season NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”
UCB has grown with the careers of the performers it inspired, opening another theater in New York and two in Los Angeles. Though Plaza goes far beyond comedy for her performance in FX’s “Legion” — a role Vulture called “the most terrifying performance on TV” — her skills as an improviser are obvious.
Her work on the show required her to transform from a stoner best friend to a mysterious demon-like being, at one point doing a dark, show-stopping dance number that windows her character’s mix of mirth and cruelty.
The role should get her an Emmy nomination. In fact, this year’s Emmys might look a lot like a UCB reunion — but they won’t have to hold it beneath a grocery store.
Check back soon for more of our Emmy interview with Plaza.