For as long as cinema has existed, actresses have experienced countless awkward moments. Sadly, Aubrey Plaza is one of them.

In a resurfaced clip, the “Parks and Recreation” and “The White Lotus” actress told talk show host Conan O’Brien that a director instructed her to masturbate on camera.

Loading the player...

“The camera was […] on the ceiling,” she told O’Brien. “I was in my underwear and a Clinton t-shirt, and there were a bunch of old men smoking — the crew guys. And then I went and touched myself.”

A disturbing scene

The interview was part of the promotion for the coming-of-age film “The To Do List,” directed by Maggie Carey.

Aubrey Plaza played Brandy Klark, a sexually inexperienced high school student. In the best ’90s American sitcom style, Klark compiles a list of sexual things to try before she finishes college.

“There’s a scene where you pleasure yourself. How do you approach that kind of scene?” O’Brien asked Plaza. “That’s got to be a strange thing to shoot on camera […] I’m just curious. That’s an intense act to simulate on film.”

She explained that masturbation wasn’t simulated. In fact, Carey asked her to pleasure herself on camera in front of the crew.

Aubrey Plaza claims director made her masturbate on camera
Credit: CBS Films.

“In my head, I envisioned a nice scene where you see my hand slowly go out of frame,” she said.

“That’s what I thought I was going into, but then when I showed up, the camera was mounted on the ceiling, I was in my underwear and a Clinton t-shirt, and there were a bunch of old men smoking, ya know, the crew guys,” she explained. “And then I went and touched myself.”

She continued: “I thought I was doing one thing, and then when I showed up, it was a whole different thing. It was a full body shot.”

“And I asked the director, ‘What should I do?’ And she said, ‘Masturbate like it says in the script.'”

An outdated practice

Contrary to current industry standards, where intimate scenes are filmed with few people on set, prosthetics, and privacy panels, what Aubrey Plaza experienced is nothing short of uncomfortable.

In fact, the actress described the moment as “nerve-racking.”

Plaza’s interview resurfaces at a time when old Hollywood practices are being put in a new light.

In a new documentary, “The Blue Lagoon,” actress Brooke Shields recounts the sexual objectification she suffered as a child. The model and actress talked about her sexualization in film, starting at age 12 in “Pretty Baby” (1978) and then at 15 in “The Blue Lagoon.”

In the latter, Shields was forced to have sex on camera despite never having had sex in real life. 

“I spent my life owing people things and doing whatever they wanted,” Shields says in the teaser. “I finally asked myself, ‘What will I be if I don’t allow that anymore?'”