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« So Link We All | Main | Interview: Emmanuelle Devos on Playing a Grieving Woman in 'Moka' and Looking Back at Two Decades of Work »
Tuesday
Jun132017

Emmy FYC: Aubrey Plaza's multiplicity in "Legion"

We're sharing our dream Emmy nominations as balloting is in progress. Here's Ben Miller...

TV creator Noah Hawley broke onto the scene quickly with the first season of Fargo.  After delivering a stellar superior second season, he was given the freedom to develop whatever he wanted at FX.  Born from that freedom was Legion.  Borrowing from its X-Men source material, Legion crafted its own little niche in prestige television.  No other series, save The Leftovers, was weirder and more divisive in its execution. 

Legion follows David (Dan Stevens), a mutant with telepathic abilities stuck in an insane asylum who finds love and conspiracy as he discovers he might (or might not) be insane.  His best friend in the asylum is Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza.  Following a series of mind-bending events, Lenny is killed.  This isn’t much of a spoiler as it happens in the first episode.

After Lenny dies, Plaza comes to life...

The way in which Lenny sticks around and what role she eventually plays, is too complicatd to explain, but let’s just say that Plaza gets to do things on TV that other people just don’t get the opportunity to do.  A whole lot of them, all at once. She’s the goofy sidekick, the menacing villian, a steadfast therapist, and even a silent-movie caricature.

Then comes the showstopper…

Believe it or not, this scene is the first real time Plaza is allowed to be womanly.  The part lends itself to androgyny, as Lenny is a rather fluid creation. In fact, the role of Lenny was originally written for an older man, but Plaza’s audition blew Hawley away.  

For the first few episodes, Lenny is portrayed as a potential figment of David’s imagination, but as the mystery unravels, her true purpose is revealed and Plaza steps up and knocks it out.  Sarcastic humor is Plaza's most well known weapon as an actress, but she really expands herself physically in Legion.  She turns her tiny frame into a deadly threat that no one would question.  She never fades in the background.  She DEMANDS attention every time she is on screen.

This is the potential I was hoping Plaza would reveal since Safety Not Guaranteed.  Genre fare isn’t exactly the focal point of awards bodies, but the Emmys would be hard pressed to find a better match of actor and role than Plaza and Lenny. Legion's ensemble is so strong that FYC cases could just as easy be made for Stevens' star performance, or other members of the supporting cast like Rachel Keller, Bill Irwin, Jermaine Clement or Jean Smart.  Kudos to Plaza for standing out from that estimable crowd.

Other FYCs 
Comedy Moms in Best Actress
The Americans for Best Drama
Justin Theroux in The Leftovers  
Difficult People for Best Comedy 
Music for Big Little Lies
Samira Wiley in Orange is the New Black
Judith Light in Transparent
Master of None for Best Comedy

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Reader Comments (3)

I love Aubrey Plaza. I think she deserved awards recognition for Parks and Recreation just for how her character has grown since the first season. I've never seen Legion but I'd love it if she got recognized.

June 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Absolutely co-sign this FYC - consistently surprising and entertaining work, often completely different yet entirely enjoyable from episode to episode. Great showcase for her to play a character beyond the kinda-weird-sardonic-chick she frequently plays in the rest of her career.

June 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDuncan Dykes

Gotta agree, she's tremendous in this series. While I didn't care for a lot of the strongly hyped new series of the last year (e.g., Stranger Things did NOTHING for me), Legend, and now American Gods, have been wonderfully creative and surprising. Real boundary pushing TV.

June 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

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