They’re right by the sea and Wells points out a yellow canoe owned by her husband, the artist Mischa Richter. “I put on make-up for you and I look like a doll, or Bette Davis,” she says, with typical English self-deprecation – she only moved to the US six years ago. “Look at my terrible grey roots,” she adds. I’m too busy admiring her green jumper and gold earrings to notice.

Little Room is a whodunit about a therapist, played by the agony aunt and broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, who disappears, leaving her patients to search for her.

“Making it was a bizarre, wonderful experience,” says Wells. “I’m used to writing remotely because that’s what Emily [Mortimer] and I did for our TV show Doll and Em, but directing was more exhausting than usual. There isn’t the same rapport on Zoom and you can’t just explain a note to an actor quickly.”

Wells started out acting and only began directing last year; she’s trying not to be too sad that her brilliant debut film Good Posture’s US release has been delayed (it was out here last year and is available to stream).

“So I know how actors feel – you get touchy and paranoid you’re the one that’s made it wrong. With Little Room I’d send WhatsApps to the actors or call them to give them notes and try to do it as quickly as possible. In a way being limited at points is a great discipline, it makes it feel like a play. But when it wrapped it was sad not to be able to just walk downstairs and have a drink and a chat with everybody. I really like people and being around them and getting that nuance.”

Since she started directing, she says she’s been trying not to be too critical of shows she watches for fun with her family – she and her daughter are re-watching Girls at the moment, which has aged well. “My dad, [John Wells], was an actor and used to come in and point out all the problems in whatever I was watching, which would be annoying, because they were often right.”

While she worked on Little Room, her 14-year-old son Ezra was home-schooling in the room next door, which was distracting. “I have that irritating habit of hearing him talking about lockdown and wanting to eavesdrop to hear what he thinks.”

Last year was the making of Wells – her performance as Sister Agatha did for nuns what Andrew Scott did for priests in Fleabag. “My daughter said something so sweet to her teacher,” she says. “She said, ‘I’m lucky because my mum was at home when I was little and didn’t really take off until I was older.’

“I’m not sure I have taken off but getting Dracula felt wild and awesome. You’re told when you hit 40 that’s it, it’s over if you’re a woman. That’s changed.”

“Forgive me,” she breaks off. “I’m going to eat a segment of orange.” She continues, while peeling it. “It still makes me laugh when people say they want parts for strong women – we haven’t completely reached equality because you wouldn’t say you’re looking for strong men, you’d just say men.”

She compares her and Mortimer’s careers. “Emily had a different career: romantic leads, cool exciting parts. I was in London with comedy and character acting and things. Making Doll and Em was awesome because we made roles for ourselves.” Already close friends, they played an actress (Mortimer) getting big in Hollywood and employing her best mate (Wells) as her personal assistant.

Before lockdown, Wells was supposed to be working on the BBC’s adaptation of The Pursuit of Love with Mortimer, and playing Christopher Walken’s daughter in a new Stephen Merchant TV show with Ricky Gervais.

When Wells realised lockdown was imminent it was March, and she was having dinner with Bang at a fish restaurant in New York. “I noticed actors I knew air kissing and thought, our business is absurd. My daughter sent me a joke link, which said the subways had stopped, but when you clicked it was a picture of a naked man. Then I heard from Emily that she was flying back home to New York from England and I felt nervous.

“That’s when we decided to go to Provincetown, where my father-in-law has a house. You feel bad jumping ship from New York, not everyone had another place they could go to. There are some days that feel really irritating but there are wonderful things coming out of this, all the community feeling and things we should have been doing anyway.”

She talks about how she hopes they clean the New York subway, which was a culture shock when she moved over. Before acting, Wells’ “only proper office job” was at the Standard’s diary and she says she got it because her father is an actor; they assumed she’d have stories. “But he’d just say, ‘Tell them Spike Milligan’s book is out in paperback.’ I got one story about Johnny Depp having a fight.”

Covid has made her homesick. “My older sister lives in Holland and her partner is Italian so she was like the Covid Cassandra because she knew what was coming, telling me early on I had to decide where I wanted to be for lockdown, which freaked me out. I want to be with my mum in Sussex – she’s 87. I’m missing London and I can’t handle much more of this moron Trump. It’s always been awful but to have a crazy narcissist in charge now is particularly bad.”

She shows me her red face mask – her husband has a blue one and her son and daughters’ are black. “We’re wearing them because it just makes sense to do everything you can to make it stop. I’m cross when people don’t because I want to come home and I want my mum and my family to survive.”

For now, she is trying “not to read the news too much. My husband gets up at 5am and I can tell if he’s been reading news from his mood.”

His film, I Am A Town, which is about Provincetown, has also had its release postponed but Wells says it should be streaming online soon. She tells me about the scenery and the people of Provincetown, including an Austrian woman who lives there called Ilona Royce Smith, who turned 100 last month.

“She walks on the beach every day and for her birthday she stood on her balcony singing I can’t give you anything but love baby and Que sera sera. She’s a huge inspiration. Seeing her sing was the most socialising I’ve done in weeks.” Richter has been catching clams and buying supplies, including lots of chocolate – “we haven’t been stockpiling, we’ve just been buying enough for four people to get through and my husband worried it looked like he was stockpiling”, she says.

There’s been no lockdown sourdough making but Wells is a prolific banana bread baker. “I’ve made about six and they go in an hour. It’s Nigella’s recipe, just banana and vanilla, and it’s the one thing I can make that never goes wrong, it probably will now. Someone signed me up to a group where you swap recipes but I haven’t got into that yet.”

Little Room made lockdown more bearable. “We were so lucky to be busy with Little Room – that lessens the anxiety. Did you see that line, ‘Introverts, put your books down and check on the extroverts’? I feel like that. I’m not naturally good at my own company or nature for months, but I’m taking it one day at a time. Some days you feel so guilty because you are not on the frontline doing incredible work for the NHS or the health service here, but at least we were making something and hopefully people will like it.”

Little Room is available to view at Donations will be split between the UK and US and go to: and