‘Baby Reindeer’: The True Story Behind the Disturbing Netflix Series

Scottish comedian Richard Gadd’s Netflix series “Baby Reindeer” is a fictionalized account of his real-life experience being stalked by an obsessed fan. Now the internet is just as obsessed with uncovering the true story that inspired the show, including the real people behind its characters.

The limited series chronicles as Gadd’s Donny Dunn goes through a harrowing journey after interactions with his stalker Martha (Jessica Gunning) grow more tense, as layers from his past — including his experience being sexually assaulted by a comedy writer he considered his mentor — provide context for his own unpredictable behavior toward his tormenter.

The show has been a surprise hit for Netflix, becoming the most-watched English TV title in its second week of release with 13.3 million views, up an impressive 411.5% from its initial viewership of 2.2 million in its first four days. The project is only gaining notoriety as word spreads of its intricate storytelling and true crime-tinged premise.

Tom Goodman-Hill as Derrien in "Baby Reindeer"
Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien in “Baby Reindeer” (Netflix)

Gadd first dramatized the bizarre events in a solo play that was also called “Baby Reindeer,” the nickname his stalker gave him. “The show has been only lightly fictionalized,” Gadd told The Guardian in 2019 when he staged his play in Edinburgh. “The skeleton of the story is absolutely true.”

After articles speculated that actor, writer and director Sean Foley is the inspiration for the character of Darrien, an older male writer who sexually assaulted Gadd in real life, Gadd asked followers on Instagram to give up the search.

“People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation,” Gadd wrote on his Instagram story on Monday. “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.”

Metro UK reports that Foley has been subjected to “defamatory, abusive and threatening” online posts after he was wrongly accused of being Darrien, and that police are now investigating.

The character is played by Tom Goodman-Hill, who does resemble the red-haired Foley somewhat, which has only further fueled online speculation.

Is there a real Martha?

Gadd has not shared the name of the real Martha and has stated that the real person doesn’t look like the actress who portrays, Jessica Gunning, although fans think they have located “the real Martha” online.

“We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognize herself,” he told GQ.

The unpredictable Martha fixates on the comedian — who is called Donny Dunn in the series —  after she comes into the pub where he works and he gives her a cup of tea on the house, after she says she can’t afford anything.

In the Netflix series, Martha is eventually charged with three counts of stalking and harassment. She pleads guilty and receives nine months in prison and a five-year restraining order from contacting Donny.

In real life, Gadd has not elaborated on his stalker’s fate, only that the situation with her has been “resolved.” He told the Times of London, “I had mixed feelings about it — I didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison.”

In 2019, Gadd said that he had not heard from his stalker despite the publicity around the play. “I have to admit that it hasn’t [caused her to start stalking again],” he told The Guardian. “Maybe seeing this in the press has made her think twice about her behavior.”

Are the texts and emails in the show real?

Gadd told Netflix he received 41,071 emails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, and 106 pages of letters from his stalker, who also left 350 hours of voicemail messages after getting his phone number.

We see Dunn getting besieged with messages in the series, but it’s not clear if producers used the real texts and emails Gadd received in real life, though many viewers are assuming they are real. Netflix did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for clarification.

All episodes of “Baby Reindeer” are now streaming on Netflix.

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