Aubrey Plaza & Theo Rossi Interview: Emily The Criminal

Warning: Spoilers for Emily the Criminal belowIn Emily the Criminal, Aubrey Plaza breaks bad with the help of Theo Rossi's Youcef. Plaza stars as the titular character in the film written and directed by John Patton Ford. Emily is saddled with a crushing amount of student debt and her catering job is barely helping reduce the burden. When she meets Youcef through a friend at work, though, Emily finds that a life of crime could help her be free of debt and live a life she never thought she could.


Naturally, things don't go according to plan and as Emily sinks deeper into the criminal underworld of Los Angeles, her life becomes increasingly dangerous. Emily the Criminal also stars Gina Gershon, Barnardo Badillo, and Jonathan Avigdori.

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Screen Rant sat down with Plaza and Rossi to talk all things Emily the Criminal, including why people love crime movies, whether Emily was enjoying her newfound life of crime, and more.

Aubrey Plaza Emily The Criminal

Screen Rant: Aubrey, you came out being known for your comedic roles, but I love these darker characters you take on in things Black Bear and Legion. What draws you to a character like Emily?

Aubrey Plaza: So many things. I just loved how kind of unapologetic she is and there's no time spent on trying to make her likable or soften her for the audience's sake, which is kind of something that happens with a lot of female characters. And I liked her vibe. I really related to a lot of the struggle that she's going through in the film. I love how East Coast she is, but she's dropped into this LA environment, which I relate to on many levels.

Do you think she was having fun being a criminal?

Aubrey Plaza: Yeah, absolutely. I think there's something inside of her... She's addicted to the thrill of some of it. She's doing it to make money and to get by, but I think that there's another element in there. She's an adrenaline junkie or something. There's something kind of sketchy about her, which I like.

Youcef is so good at bringing out that sketchiness. You and Aubrey had such great chemistry. Did you guys spend a lot of time together before filming?

Theo Rossi: I don't know her at all.

Aubrey Plaza: He hasn't met the real me.

Theo Rossi: No, we were really fortunate on this that we did get a couple of Zooms before, and then we had like a week together.

Aubrey Plaza: John [Patton Ford] made a point to have rehearsal, which is so rare for an independent film. We met at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, they were kind enough to let us use their space. We worked out some of the scenes on stage, which was very romantic now that I really think about it.

Theo Rossi: [laughs] It really was.

Aubrey Plaza: Wasn't it?

Theo Rossi: We were eating there, just hanging out there.

Aubrey Plaza: Just sitting there on a dark stage, you don't get to do that a lot.

Theo Rossi: And just go to know each other. There was such a trust there that by the time they're ready to shoot it's like, let's go! And there's a trust not just as human beings, but like trust in like, let's try this, let's try that. So it was like, you know, John, Aubrey, and myself can like really say, "What about that?" And I think that's what brings out the relationship in the film.

And then she leaves you in the car, though.

Theo Rossi: Well, maybe...

Aubrey Plaza: Well, maybe. I don't know...

Theo Rossi: There were other parts.

Aubrey Plaza: He could go back at the end, you don't know.

I like how it came full circle, though, and Emily is now in Yucef's position. Was that one of the things that drew you to the script?

Aubrey Plaza: Yeah, totally. It's a completely unexpected path for her. Someone that is kind of seeking out the American dream. Not to spoil the movie, but to end up in a completely different place, but finding that dream in a totally different way, upside down or something.

Emily the Criminal Synopsis

Aubrey Plaza in Emily the Criminal

Saddled with student debt and unable to find work, a college graduate becomes involved in a credit card scam, acting as a dummy shopper and buying increasingly risky products with stolen credit cards.

Check out our other interview with Emily the Criminal writer-director John Patton Ford.

Emily the Criminal is currently playing in theaters.