‘Baby Reindeer’: The True Story Behind Netflix’s #1 Stalking Drama

You’ll feel every emotion as you make your way through this series.

Starring Jessica Gunning, Baby Reindeer (2024) is currently the #1 show on Netflix.

Baby Reindeer on Netflix shares such an emotionally charged and vulnerable story of stalking, trauma, and abuse that it has taken viewers by a storm. As discussion spread across social media, Baby Reindeer had a surge of interest that led to a whopping 13.3 million views, landing it in Netflix’s #1 spot. Each episode is as captivating as the last, with each new scene revealing shocking details nobody could see coming. You’ll feel every emotion as you go through the series. There are moments of laughter, monologues that will make you cry, and scenes that are so utterly disturbing you may need to take a moment to pause. With everything that unfolds, it’s hard to imagine that the events depicted are based on a true story.

Please stop trying to track down the real Martha and Darrien.

The series goes in-depth on Scottish comedian Richard Gadd’s experience being stalked by an obsessed fan known in the show as Martha (Jessica Gunning). Later episodes delve into his relationship with a well-known writer, Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill), who took advantage of his desire to become a famous comedian and went on to abuse him repeatedly. Its title, Baby Reindeer, comes from the nickname his stalker gave him based on one of her childhood toys.

Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill) was a writer with nefarious intent in Baby Reindeer.

Not only does the show reveal deeply personal life experiences, but Gadd essentially reenacts his trauma by starring as the fictionalized main character, Donny Dunn. Gadd narrates each episode, giving viewers a glimpse into his psyche by sharing his thoughts and feelings throughout each phase of his traumatic past. There are certain actions Gadd took (and didn’t take) that are hard to understand at face value. Initially, it’s difficult to imagine handling things the way he did. However, the more vulnerable details and thought processes he reveals, the more he allows viewers to open their minds to his unique lens. “I did loads of things wrong,” Gadd revealed to The Guardian, “and made the situation worse.” Although the story may seem unbelievable, he confirmed it was only lightly fictionalized. He continued, “The skeleton of the story is absolutely true.”

Richard Gadd portrays a lightly fictionalized version of himself, Donny Dunn.

So, who are the real people behind the characters of Baby Reindeer? Naturally, as more people tuned in to the show, there has been a lot of speculation on who the real-life Martha and abusive writer could be. However, Gadd has been extremely tight-lipped about those who have wronged him and has encouraged viewers to stop attempting to reveal their identities.

Articles quickly spread, suggesting the inspiration for Darrien could be writer, actor, and director Sean Foley. “People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation,” Gadd shared to his Instagram story. He continued, “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.” Foley reshared Gadd’s message to his X account, also stating in a separate post, “Police have been informed and are investigating all defamatory abusive and threatening posts against me.” Gadd denies all claims made against Foley.

Gadd meets Martha (Jessica Gunning) while working at a bar.

Some fans also believe that they’ve locked down who the real Martha is after finding an old video of one of Gadd’s comedy sets. In the footage, amongst the roar of laughter, there’s a hauntingly familiar chuckle standing out in the audience. Dunn speaks of Martha’s “infectious, distinctive laugh” in the series, leading viewers to believe the loud-laughing audience member must be the woman in question. One commenter pointed out that Gadd makes “the exact same joke” and that it’s the “same set” depicted in the first episode. That said, it’s unknown who’s actually laughing in the clip.

Gadd explained that the actress who played the obsessive woman, Jessica Gunning, looks nothing like the real-life stalker (see update below). This even led some viewers to believe the real Martha may be a man rather than a woman. Speaking with Variety, Gadd shared, “What I needed to see was the essence of the person, the kind of energy, and no one did it like Jess. She’s phenomenal. I needed to see someone who was vulnerable one moment, angry the next, volatile but so desperate and sympathetic. I needed to see someone who could capture a full gamut of emotions.”

As far as the real Martha, nobody knows for sure who she is or where she is today. However, it seems that she never did go to prison. Despite everything she put him through, she was clearly mentally unstable, and he “didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison.” according to a Times article. He also told Independent, “I can’t emphasize enough how much of a victim she is in all this,” going on to say, “’Stalking and harassment is a form of mental illness. It would have been wrong to paint her as a monster, because she’s unwell, and the system’s failed her.” However, Gadd doesn’t seem to think he needs to worry about her contacting him anymore. When asked if he felt she’d contact him due to the show, he told Variety, “Due to where things ended in real life, it’s not a concern for me.” Update: the real Martha has spoken out about the series.

Of course, starring in a depiction of his own years-long trauma wasn’t exactly easy. It’s unusual for those with shows made about traumatic pasts to star the individual who actually endured it all. However, the emotional depth is profoundly amplified by adding in his own personal narration and playing the part of Donny Dunn. He deeply committed to the part, losing weight to match what he looked like during the darkest periods of his torment.

Now, Gadd is currently single and finds it hard to trust people. Understandably, he’s more cautious of anyone he meets after the reign of terror the real-life Martha inflicted. Over the course of years, she wrote him over 40,000 emails and left hundreds of hours of voice messages. In the show, she finds ways to see him nearly every day, even sitting outside his home for 15+ hours to catch glimpses of him. Assuming the performance mimicked reality, it’s unnerving to think about someone that dangerous being so involved in daily life. Thankfully, Gadd told Times he had “every therapy going.” So, hopefully, with the help of professional support and the success of the show, he can put his dark past behind him.

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Meet The Author

Brandy Eaklor is a writer, artist, and content creator who specializes in entertainment and horror subjects. Her favorite horror movies are Hereditary and The Strangers.