Aubrey Plaza is taking on new challenges with her role as Lenny Busker in “Legion,” and that includes things that might be outside her comfort zone.
In the sixth episode, which aired Wednesday night, Plaza shows off her dancing skills in a montage that depicts her character hopping through different parts of David Haller’s memories. She employs a combination of striptease, burlesque, Broadway-style jazz, and just general chaos in a dance to “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone.
The scene represents episode six in that it’s a departure from the rest of the series. At the end of episode five, all of the characters are transported inside David’s mind, which takes the form of the mental asylum seen in episode one.
When Plaza got the script, she said she was excited to be able to act out in this “bizarro” version of an already bizarro show.
As Plaza put it, in a chat with TheWrap, she didn’t have a lot of direction. She was directed by the script to simply “rub her stink all over David’s memories.”
“It was this weird graphic imagery and I tried to interpret that,” she said.
Plaza worked with choreographers Vanessa Young and Geneen Georgiev, who worked on previous “Legion” sequences, to get the scene just right. She had ideas of her own concerning how the scene would work, but had little prior dancing experience (she could only recall a scene from “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”).
Young told TheWrap that the inexperience didn’t stop Plaza from jumping into the scene and claiming the attention from the camera.
“She was very brave. Once the music played, she just went for it,” Young said. “You could give her something really small and she could make such a confirmed choice.”
Young confirmed that Plaza didn’t have specifics from the script, so she and Georgiev worked with episode director Hiro Murai to come up with a sequence that showed off this new side to Lenny. They wanted to make her more feminine than she had ever been before, and to ensure that she was exerting control now that she was the driving force in David’s mind.
“She takes on this power in this particular episode,” Young said. “We wanted to not just have that feminine movement, but to lead from the pelvis.”
While we’ll be seeing a different side of Lenny in episode six, it won’t be a stark change. The character has always been about physicality. In the first couple episodes, she’s the laid back, encouraging friend to Dan Stevens’ David, and how she leans back in chairs with her feet up reflects that. Of course, as the season goes on and Lenny reveals her true colors, Plaza switches it up. Lenny stands taller, and often has to stoop or crouch down to look characters directly in the eye.
The montage has her dancing, but it also has her knocking over props, rolling around on stools, and creating destruction on familiar sets, such as David’s childhood bedroom, which Young said was actually destroyed for the shot. It was all done in one take.
“The poor set crew. They had quite the cleanup,” she said. “It was so wonderful to have a crew that was okay with that. Aubrey just really went for it.”
The dance is a culmination of her physical evolution, something that Plaza understood was an important aspect of her character.
“I think when I’m working on any character your physical behavior is so important and it’s always something i’m thinking about,” she said. “That stuff is really fun on ‘Legion’ because I’m playing this really extreme character [who morphs throughout the series] but they all have a through line. So it’s a fun challenge to decide ‘okay, what is at the core of Lenny and how can I change the behavior but keep that essence. It was hard.”
The role is one of the most challenging of Plaza’s career, she says. Since Lenny is practically a different character each episode, Plaza has to ensure that there’s some consistency. This was especially tough considering the actor weren’t told about episodic developments and would only find out when getting the script.
However, there’s something endearing about Lenny too especially since she’s so different than anything Plaza is known for playing, such as April Ludgate in “Parks and Recreation.”
“I love the idea in the first couple episodes that my kind of role was to be the fun friend of David’s character,” she said. “It’s a really fun character because it’s a departure from me to be the one that’s not dragging things down and making sarcastic comments.”
“I love her energy,” she added.