YOU might know Dolly Wells as one half of TV series Doll & Em, which she made with her best friend, Emily Mortimer, or from Bridget Jones, or even as the bookseller in last year’s Oscar-winner Can You Ever Forgive Me? She’s also, however, the next hot film director on the block.
The 47-year-old Brit has helmed Good Posture, an impressive improvised comedy-drama set in modern-day New York about an aimless girl, Lilian (Grace Van Patten), who becomes the tenant of a famous reclusive novelist (Mortimer). It’s got the feel of a film by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha), which Wells tells me, in her typically self-deprecating way, is a ‘terribly generous’ comparison.
‘I always wanted to direct but I got scared, thinking, “Do I have something to say?”’ she says.
It was director Jamie Adams, who cast her in witty improvised comedy Black Mountain Poets, who convinced her. The film was shot near her home in Brooklyn, where she moved six years ago, and was partly inspired by herself.
‘Even though I’m 20 years older than Grace, it’s a character I’ve seen in myself and my friends — not wanting to grow up and resting on your laurels,’ she says. ‘It was a feeling I felt when I first met my husband.’
Mortimer agreed immediately to take part — when she was finally asked.
‘I didn’t ask her at first as I didn’t want her to feel like she had to be in the film,’ says Wells. ‘But she was perfect.’
Mortimer, who’d already settled in New York, helped her friend feel at home when she first moved over with her husband and kids. Their friendship inspired their series, Doll & Em, which premiered in 2014 and starred Wells as her friend’s new personal assistant.
‘We were lucky as there wasn’t so much pressure over what we had to be saying as women back then,’ says Wells. ‘We just happened to be two women finding that relationship, and jealousy and power, more interesting.’
Doll & Em was also made well before the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Ironically, Weinstein himself guest-starred as a cynical producer in an early episode.
‘There were two other people we wanted but weren’t able to get and we got him but there was a feeling of… hmm…’ Wells makes an uncomfortable noise. ‘No one knew anything but there was still a creepiness to him. The revelations were shocking and horrendous and really surprising and… not.’
Wells is back writing with Mortimer now but for a different TV project.
‘It feels like the one we’re doing now is a bit more painful and searching,’ she says.
She’s also just finished acting in TV series Dracula.
‘It was incredible, more stunts than I’ve ever done, a real adventure,’ she says. And more directing? ‘I’m ready to start thinking what the next one will be.’
Bring it on.
■ Good Posture is out in cinemas now