Aubrey Plaza is having a moment. The 38-year-old actress is earning rave reviews for her roles in Emily the Criminal and Season 2 of the Emmy award-winning series, The White Lotus. Here, she chats to WHO about her own ‘criminal’ activity and her life-changing moment with a late actor.

Tell us about your character, Emily.
Yes! Emily is from New Jersey and finds herself in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, she has a criminal record and a past she can’t shake while trying to get a job. She’s having a hard time. So, she decides to do the small crime of credit card fraud. She finds out she’s good at it and she gets in way over her head.

Do you share any similarities with Emily?
I had a tough period of time after school, before I got my big break. I grinded it out in New York with different jobs in hospitality and at a temp agency. I did odd jobs and I used that time as an inspiration. I’m lucky I got to start acting pretty soon after that, but I remember that feeling.

Watching the film, I questioned whether I would engage in illegal activity if I was really down on my luck like Emily, and I’d have to say I would!
(Laughs) I think that’s what’s fun about the movie. At first, it’s like she’s doing it for money, but then I think she does it because she likes it. There’s an adrenalin rush to it.

Now tell us, have you ever done anything blatantly illegal?
No! (Laughs) I mean, when I was a kid or when I was a teenager, I did teenage stupid stuff like broke into the park after midnight and vandalised. Stuff like that. Just dumb stuff. There was a lot of construction where I grew up, and I used to break into the construction houses and write things with nails. I’d get a pile of nails and write messages to the construction workers like, “Beware, there’s a ghost here.” Just stupid stuff. I don’t know if that’s even illegal. I’m a good catholic girl.

What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?
(Laughs) Like I would ever tell you the naughtiest thing I’ve ever done!

Can you name three actors you’d like to work with, dead or alive?
Tilda Swinton, Nicolas Cage. I’m already seeing the movie now – me, Tilda and Nicolas. Oh, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I met him once and I’ll never forget it.

Tell us about that.
I auditioned for him. He was going to direct a play. He gave me the most incredible advice, I’ll never forget it. He changed my brain when it came to acting. He kind of screamed at me in a passionate way – I loved it. I was delivering this dramatic monologue, but I was kind of looking down, feeling sorry for myself. He got up and screamed, “No-one’s interested in looking at you looking down. When you’re in a scene with someone it’s about the other person even if you’re talking about yourself.” A light bulb went off in my head. I learnt so much in five seconds talking to him. So, I did it again and I got the part.

Have you ever been starstruck?
Absolutely. I was starstruck when I saw Elaine May in a play, and then we brushed shoulders backstage when she walked by me. I was starstruck by Diane Keaton at a hotel in Rome. I was too shy to say anything to her, but she was standing in a little courtyard and she was so cool. I was too shy, and my friend was like, “Go up and say something, you probably have mutual friends.” Which we do. But I was too shy. And I was starstruck when I saw Patrick Wilson. I was so taken by this guy singing and dancing. I met him backstage and I could barely speak.

Source: WHO