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True story of baby reindeer | Creator Richard Gadd on his stalking ordeal

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The seven-part series follows a struggling Scottish stand-up comedian, Donny Dunn, who is stalked and relentlessly harassed by a woman named Martha (played by Jessica Gunn) after he offers her a drink at the bar where he works.

Baby Reindeer explores the psychological impact of the stalking on both the stalker and her victim, as well as the effects of the whole ordeal on other people in Donny’s life.

Those who have already seen the series are naturally wondering if the show is based on a true story. Read on for everything you need to know.

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Is Baby Reindeer on Netflix a true story?

Richard Gadd sits in the back of a bus in a yellow raincoat, with antlers on the window behind it

Baby reindeer. Netflix

Yes, Baby Reindeer is based on the real-life experiences of actor and comedian Richard Gadd, who plays Donny in the show, and is based on his hit Edinburgh Fringe one-man theater show of the same name.

Gadd first met his stalker, whom he called “Martha”, while working in a pub. He offered her a cup of tea on the house, a small act of kindness that, unbeknownst to him, was the gateway to her obsession with him.

Over the course of three years, she sent him more than 41,000 emails, voicemails totaling 350 hours, multiple social media messages and 106 pages of letters.

Not only did she come to his shows, she also came to his house – none of which was punishable under the law because her behavior was not considered physically threatening.

“There were times when it was so life-threatening that I couldn’t believe it could get to this point from a legal perspective,” he told Time Out in 2019.

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Finally, two and a half years later, Gadd was able to get a restraining order issued against her. But speaking to The Guardian that same year, he revealed that his stalker, who was still at large, had also harassed his family and friends.

And yet Gadd’s ‘motivation’ for writing Baby Reindeer was not to highlight the fact that ‘men are stalked too’, although it will undoubtedly spark debate about that.

For him it goes much deeper.

Tom Goodman-Hill played Darrien in Baby Reindeer.

Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien in Baby Reindeer. Ed Miller/Netflix

“What motivated me to write it was when I was going through it, I thought, ‘This is crazy. How long is this going to last? How hard is it to sort everything out? Why is there no help?’ for her?,” he told RadioTimes.com.

One of the most interesting aspects of Gadd’s story (and possibly baffling to some) is the sympathy he has for his stalker.

“When I was being stalked… I saw someone who was unwell, in need of help and quite vulnerable,” he said. “Stalking is a mental illness and stems from a kind of fantasy addiction: the idea that this person is the answer to all your problems, so you only hear what you want to hear and ignore the rest.”

And that didn’t match what he had seen on the screen before.

“I hadn’t seen that on television before and I actually think that when I experienced it, I felt like it was an important story to tell… (and) it was important that people understood it,” added he added. .

“Martha does bad things on the show, but I hope to think sometimes that it all comes from that wound, that place inside her, I think.

Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in Baby Reindeer.  He is standing behind the bar and she is sitting on the other side and pointing at him.

Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in Baby Reindeer. Ed Miller/Netflix

In the fourth episode, Gadd is also confronted with another painful chapter in his life that preceded his stalking: his sexual assault, which he turned into the show Monkey See Monkey Do.

But despite the two ordeals being separate, Gadd believes his sexual assault “really served the Martha plot.”

“It’s really important to show how much of an impact that had on me and how much of an impact it had on the relationship with Martha,” he explained.

“The thing is, when Martha comes in in Episode 1, I think the audience is like, ‘Why is he spoiling her?’ You cringe and you wonder why he’s doing it. But I think once you take the audience through Episode 4 and you do a flashback and you go through all that stuff, by the time Martha comes in, you’ll be fine. at the end of episode 4, you’re like, “Oh thank God, she’s back.” You really understand why Donny did it.”

As with the topic of stalking, Gadd also believed he had something new, or certainly more truthful, to say about sexual abuse.

“On a fundamental level, you see sexual abuse on television – not all the time – but often as an anonymous figure in the night,” he said. “But there’s a lot of abuse going on in terms of the power dynamics, the work dynamics, the relationship dynamics and all that stuff. I hadn’t seen the psychological complexity of it that much on television and I really wanted to show the perniciousness of the grooming cycle. ” , just as much as the abuse cycle.

“Victims of abuse can be as ashamed of the idea of ​​feeling cheated as they are of feeling manipulated. One of the feelings I was left with after everything was, ‘God, I just feel so stupid.’ I am so honest, not only about the attack, but also about how it got to this point, I hope it will bring comfort to people who may be going through the same thing.”

But of course, sharing his story on stage at the Fringe is very different from broadcasting it on Netflix, where it is now available to an audience of tens of millions.

“The idea that a lot of people are going to know about my company is quite intimidating, and I did this show for about 200 people a night when it was a theater show,” he said.

But it’s not just about people who ‘know their trade’. It’s also about how sharing his experiences will shape people’s perception of him.

“It’s funny because you spend your whole life running and trying to escape the mud of what it’s like to go through some of these things — the psychological impact it has,” Gadd said. “Then of course you put it out into the world and you don’t want to be defined by it.

“It’s inevitable that in some ways you’re probably going to be dealing with these experiences for a while.”

But as Nava Mau, who plays Terri (also based on a real person), notes, Gadd’s candor is an act of courage that deserves only our praise.

“I’m lucky that just as he can see other people, he can also see himself, and he’s not afraid to show it to the world.”

Who is the real Martha from Baby Reindeer and where is she now?

Jessica Gunning as Martha in Baby Reindeer.  She is wearing a pink jacket and is sitting looking up with a smile on her face, holding a menu.

Jessica Gunning as Martha in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

The real identity of Gadd’s stalker is unknown; he gave his stalker the name “Martha” for his one-man show at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival – and now for the TV series – to keep her identity hidden.

Since ‘Martha’ is a fictionalized version of Gadd’s stalker, it is not clear where the real figure is now.

In the show, Martha is ultimately jailed for nine months for stalking Donny and given a five-year restraining order.

In an interview with The Times, Richard said the stalking problem has been “solved”.

He added that he had “mixed feelings” about it because he “didn’t want to throw someone who was so mentally unwell in jail.”

How much of Baby Reindeer is true?

Martha is standing in a pub near the door

Jessica Gunning plays Martha in Baby Reindeer. Netflix

Of course, certain details have been changed for the sake of “satisfactory television production,” such as “shifting” timelines, “just to make more sense.” But “it’s a true story,” Gadd said.

Specific details regarding the real-life figures involved have also been changed to protect them.

“It totally borrows from an emotional truth and a lot of the events in Baby Reindeer are very truthful,” he continued. “I never really compromised on that, the energy of the characters.

“But it’s clear that we had to protect other people to protect ourselves. We had to change all the specific details of the characters because… it exposes everyone on both sides to too much vulnerability.”

Speak with RadioTimes.comJessica Gunning, who plays Martha, also explained that as part of her approach, she “deliberately decided not to know much about the real person, because it’s not really useful.”

“I’m not doing an imitation of her,” she added. “All I’m doing is interpreting this character, so I haven’t really created a backstory beyond what was in the scripts.”

Anyone affected by Richard Gadd’s story can find support by visiting the NHS website or contacting Victim Support.

All seven episodes of Baby Reindeer are now available to stream on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from €4.99 per month. Netflix is ​​also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what’s on. For more information about TV’s biggest stars, listen to the Radio Times Podcast.