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Aubrey Plaza Wears Many Faces in ‘Legion’ (Video)

What at first seems like a stoner friend role turns into an explosive performance that puts actress in solid Emmy contention

Aubrey Plaza‘s character in “Legion” might appear, at first, a little underused as the stoner friend: Her Lenny seems like the deadpan, lovable loser, the familiar comic relief to the multitudinous struggles of our more complex hero, Dan Stevens’ David Haller.

You might wonder what a TV and movie star like Plaza is doing in such a basic role. You might even think: What a waste.

But only because you have no idea.

By the end of Noah Hawley’s psychedelic nightmare, you learn that Plaza‘s Lenny isn’t a friend to David at all. Or a stoner. She’s not really a woman (the part was written for a middle-aged man) or even a human. She (spoiler alert) is actually a he/it/astral projection known as The Shadow King, and as “Legion” unfolds we watch King Plaza get really high, demolish a dance routine and act out a Beetlejuician silent-movie sequence that conjures a grislier version of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” face melting.

She hasn’t just acted up a storm. She’s acted up a hellstorm.

How did she do it? By going very, very dark. And it seems like a direction embraced by Plaza, a seasoned improviser, sitcom veteran (“Parks and Recreation”) and star of films ranging from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” to “Mike and Dave Needs Wedding Dates.” Her trademark deadpan doesn’t reflect stoner apathy — it reflects a refusal to be thrown off by anything.

Case in point: She found the dance routine challenging (“I’m not a dancer so I was kind of just going for it”), but delighted in dark scenes where “Lenny is a full-blown drug addict.”

“Dan and I just had fun. We were just out of our minds,” she said. “We got to do whatever we wanted.”

You can see how complex Plaza’s “Legion” role turned out to be in the video above.