The Netflix comedy “Master of None” took a lot of people by surprise, but co-star Noël Wells knew she was involved with something special. The relationship between Wells’ character Rachel and Aziz Ansari’s Dev became the heart of the first season, and they anchored a pair of memorable two-handers: the first date episode “Nashville” and the bittersweet penultimate installment “Mornings.” Her creative collaboration with Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang emboldened the actress-writer-director, who recently wrapped her feature helming debut.
NOEL WELLS: “I had been auditioning for a lot of things where I didn’t understand the point of the character. This was two people who were on equal footing having fun conversations.
“Through shooting [Aziz and I] revised the scripts so they got even better as time went on. We would take the scenario of a scene and then improvise together to see what was the more natural way of speaking, seeing what kind of jokes could arise from that and it really allowed me to give my point of view. We created this working relationship where all of our dialogue felt like two people that really did connect because we were connecting when we were doing it.
“The ‘Mornings’ episode we spent a lot more time on. It was kind of idea-jamming. We spent a lot of time talking. He would talk about things that happened in his relationship and I would talk about things that happened in my relationship. The idea was really, really strong to begin with, but it allowed Rachel to have a specific point of view, which in a lot of ways is my point of view.
“What I love about Aziz is he has a very optimistic point of view about everything, and the sweet bubbliness to the beginning of that relationship is that version. But then those subtleties creep in, ‘Maybe this isn’t everything it seems’ and one thing can blow up all the tension that’s been bubbling underneath. I tend to go darker, so I think I pushed it. I like the balance we created.
“We did have a really natural fun rapport. I’ve never had that acting off of somebody, where we were on the same page from the get go. It was a very rewarding experience and it felt very formative to me. It was the first time it felt like, ‘I can do this,’ and I had somebody pushing me and saying, ‘Hey keep going, I really like what you’re doing.’
“It was kind of our bottle episode. We shot on our set for an entire week, it was basically chronological because we could get away with that. It was like I lived with Aziz and the crew for a week. There was a lot of cute moments and then there was the sex scenes. It was the first time I had to do all that.
“Our dressing rooms are across the way from each other, and Aziz came out in a robe and I came out in a robe and we were like, ‘Welp, we’re gonna do this.’ At that point it’s like we’re friends and now we have to go do this thing. The whole crew was very wonderful and awesome, but there was a level of being very nervous about it and I think Aziz was too. We would do a take and then he would make a joke at the end and I’d be like, ‘Come on, don’t make me laugh right now, I’m trying to be really serious!’
“There was a scene where we were having sex on a chair. It’s not that I’m conservative but I’m very shy and we were trying to bandage to cover up my boobs and they were like ‘we can see all the stuff that’s covering up your boobs.’ So there was a moment when I had to put on something much smaller and it’s like now my boobs are in his face. I don’t know. It was fine. It was hard for me but also funny. All of it was very funny.
“There was lots of improv on set, specifically the sex stuff there was a lot of goofy improv because those were the things we didn’t rehearse for obvious reasons. The part where we’re post-sex and he says, ‘What if I came like this?’ and he did an impression of a really gross guy. And I did the impression of like… We did that in the moment. It was an improvised moment and I’m really happy it made it in.
“[Eric Wareheim] is such a pro. Specifically for that episode, we were very late in shooting and everybody was in a great rhythm, really what he did was let us do our thing and pull us back if we were going too far. He gave us a lot of breathing room to figure things out. Anytime I was insecure I would say ‘Eric, am I doing OK?’ and he would be like ‘Dude, you’re doing fine.’ That was his directing for me. Sometimes that’s all a director needs to say.
“The first time I saw the episode was right before the premiere. I hung out with Aziz and he said, ‘Do you want to watch “Mornings”?’ It was really sweet, I got to watch it with Aziz. It was so wonderful to watch it with him and get to have that moment.
“I really cared about the characters, and that episode I’m really, really proud of. Working on the show gave me a lot of confidence to go forth into the world on whatever creative endeavors I’m working on.”