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Photos: ‘Parks and Recreation’ Star Aubrey Plaza Has a Black Belt in Deadpan Humor

‘I’m pretty sarcastic, so people that don’t know me may think I’m a bitch,’ she says in the Rolling Stone Hot List Issue

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Aubrey Plaza negged Ryan Gosling hard one time, but she swears she didn't mean to. "I was at this juice bar, and he came in," the Parks and Recreation star recalls at a softball diamond in Encino, California, where members of the Parks cast and crew are getting their asses handed to them by some Disney show. 

"I didn't recognize him. He said, 'I'm a big fan of the show,' and I said, 'Thank you. Are you an actor?' He kind of smirked and said, 'Yeahhh…' I asked his name, and he said, 'Ryan,' but it didn't click. I was like, 'We worked together, didn't we? You look so familiar.' He kept smirking, like I was messing with him. I got my juice and left." Plaza sighs. "I missed my shot." She's summoned to the plate, where she slams out a base hit. "She's got a hell of a swing," a crew dude says on the bench. You can't blame Gosling for being wary around Plaza. 

By Jonah Weiner

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At 27, with scene-stealing roles in Funny People and on Parks – in which she plays the eternally eye-rolling April Ludgate – she's proven a deadpan black belt. (Google the Leno appearance where Plaza gives Steven Tyler a master class in stilted timing.) 

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"I'm pretty sarcastic, so people that don't know me may think I'm a bitch," she says. What keeps her from seeming mean is her shyness and tamped-down goofiness. 

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Of her awkward late-show appearances, she says, "I'm not supercomfortable in my skin. I have to make it work for me, and that usually amounts to making it uncomfortable for everyone else."

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Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, Plaza was a class clown. When she decided her Catholic school needed a mascot, she put on a cape and a beekeeper's mask: "I'd climb the scaffolding and pretend I was going to fly off. The nuns would get upset." 

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She became student-council president and, while at NYU, took improv classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade. Scoring a manager, she landed Parks, Funny People and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, all in a single week. 

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She's got more on the horizon, including The Hand Job, about a prude on a sexual-experimentation spree, and Safety Not Guaranteed, about two writers who answer an ad from a guy looking for someone to go time-traveling with. 

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Her challenge now is showing range without betraying her instincts. "My people would love it if I smiled more, if I was more 'approachable,' " she says. "I don't give a shit about being approachable, but I do care about a big-time director thinking, 'She couldn't be a vulnerable emotional lead in my big Oscar-worthy film.' Would I smile for that? Yes." And then she smiles.

NEXT: How Inventor Ben Gulak Went From Science-Fair Nerd to the Playboy Mansion

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