Aubrey Plaza just got back from nearly a year in Italy — for work, yes, but there was play involved.
“I should speak better Italian than I do,” Plaza said during a recent appearance on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna.
Plaza was in Sicily filming the anticipated HBO show "White Lotus." Each season is essentially about trouble in paradise, following interconnected stories of people on vacation.
While she couldn't reveal plot details about the show, Plaza expanded on what she called the "energy" of the set.
"We were shooting near an active volcano, so I would say there was a volcanic energy — and we all felt it," she said."There's something in the water. There's something in the air. A wild energy, and we all took it on."
She continued, "It infuses into the show. I think people will see that it’s operatic. The excitement of living next to something that could erupt at any moment."
"It’s operatic. The excitement of living next to something that could erupt at any moment.”
Aubrey Plaza on Season 2 of white lotus
Plaza plays Harper Spiller, a married woman going away with her husband and friends — and role creator Mike White wrote with her specifically in mind. Season Two also stars Jennifer Coolidge (as Tanya McQuoid) and F. Murray Abraham (as a new character), from Season One, and newcomers like Michael Imperioli, Tom Hollander and Haley Lu Richardson.
The cast "had a blast," according to Plaza. When asked how to vacation in Italy "White Lotus" style, Plaza said, "Don't hold back. Try everything, go everywhere. Speak Italian. Go to dinner late. Stay for five hours. Have another drink."
Speaking of drinks: While Plaza couldn't say whether she and co-star Coolidge had any shots together for the show, she did confirm that they took shots together. "Oh, for sure," she said. "I can say that much."
Prior to "White Lotus," Plaza was also in Italy filming "Spin Me Round," a movie directed by her husband, Jeff Baena. Out Aug. 19, the Florence-set rom-com marks their fifth project together.
"We have an unspoken, unconscious kind of language," Plaza said of working with Baena. "I'm very intense when I'm shooting, and he knows that. We cater to each other, the way we are on set. He knows me so well. So he so he can direct me, you know, because he knows how to get things out of me."
Molly Shannon is also a frequent collaborator of Baena's, and her friendship with Plaza goes deep.
"She's hilarious but she's also so incredibly thoughtful. She's like one of those people that fully gives you their attention and makes people feel really really special," Plaza said of Shannon.
"Her texts are like that too. But she also leaves she's a big voice texter and those are funny because they're long. She'll leave me messages like, 'Aubrey, I'm driving my son to school,' and on and on. For me, it's the dream. I could listen to it over and over again. I'm like, 'Molly Shannon's leaving me a message!'"
Plaza said she was moved by Shannon's memoir, which came out in April and details the comedian's comeback from a shocking childhood tragedy.
"She dropped the manuscript she'd been making notes in a shopping bag by my door. It was literally a dirty pile of papers. I took it on a plane with me and read it in one one sitting and I was crying. It's one of the best memoirs I've ever read," she said. Her stories are insane. You're like, what? Like you actually did that."
The star is also in "Emily the Criminal," out in theaters Aug. 12. Plaza plays a woman who turns to crime to get out of student loan debt. "People call the movie a stressful experience," she said.
After the experience, Plaza said she might not be the worst criminal — if she could convince herself it was "just another role."
"I would have to treat it like an acting exercise. I'd have to be like, Okay, 'I'm a character. I'm going to commit to this character,' and then I'd be fine. But if I were myself, I'd be a mess," she said.
Looking to the recent spate of shows based on real criminal figures, like "Inventing Anna" and "The Dropout," Plaza said she'd love to add one to her IMDb list.
"Any story that's true is always that much more fun, because you just can't believe that that person actually did that. I would love to play a true anything," she said.
The second installment of Plaza's children's book series comes out later this year.