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Baby Reindeer star Richard Gadd admits he 'made mistakes' with real stalker that inspired Netflix series

The dark comedy is inspired by Richard's real stalking ordeal

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
11 April 2024
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Baby Reindeer star Richard Gadd has admitted that he "made mistakes" when dealing with his real-life stalker, who inspired his new Netflix series. 

The seven-part dark comedy tells the true story of Richard's stalking ordeal and follows struggling comedian Donny Dunn, played by Richard, who is relentlessly stalked by a woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning).

WATCH: Netflix’s Baby Reindeer is based on a true story

Ahead of the show's premiere, Richard spoke to HELLO! and other press about bringing his real-life trauma to the small screen.

When asked how important it was to depict the complicated nature of stalking, as well as confront his mistakes, Richard explained that he'd never seen his own experience reflected in TV and film.

"It's that femme fatale trope that comes with stalking, someone who seems perfect but then they're not," said the comedian. "That wasn't what this was like. 

Richard Gadd originally wrote the show as a one man play
Richard Gadd writes and stars in Baby Reindeer

"Stalking is a severe mental illness and a sort of fantasy addiction when this person genuinely believes that this other person is fundamentally the answer to their problems and nothing you can say or do will get them out of that. I saw a very vulnerable person that needed help and that's the truth I wanted to bring to screen."

The 34-year-old continued: "There was a version of this show that I wasn't interested in. I can make myself look perfect in this very easily – I offer her a cup of tea, 'What a nice gesture, aren't I perfect?' But I was going through a lot of [expletive] and I made mistakes. 

In the show, Donny is pursued by a stalker© Ed Miller/Netflix
Jessica Gunning plays stalker Martha

"I think in this day and age people are scared to admit they've made mistakes but I think that's what makes Baby Reindeer interesting."

Richard was stalked by Martha (a pseudonym) for years after offering her a cup of tea in a bar he worked at. This brief encounter sparked an obsession, which resulted in Richard receiving 40,000 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, and 100 pages of letters over five years. 

Richard plays Donny© Ed Miller/Netflix
The series is based on a true story

The comedian decided to take his ordeal to the stage in a play titled Baby Reindeer – referencing the nickname his stalker gave him – which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, and won the Scotsman Fringe First Award and a Stage Award for Acting Excellence. 

Baby Reindeer: Martha's obsession in numbers

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

Richard Gadd has been vocal about his stalker, named 'Martha' in the show, and just how many messages, voicemails,  tweets and emails he received from her before contact was cut off. It included: 

  • 41,000 emails 
  • 744 tweets
  • 100 pages of letters
  • 350 hours of voicemails 

When asked if there was anything he wanted to leave out of the Netflix series in the interest of self-preservation, Richard said: "There were those moments but I do think the second you start to water yourself down, an audience sniffs that out from a mile away. I think the second you are disingenuous when you write or do a piece of work, it shows all the way through to the end. 

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer© Netflix
Richard stars as Donny in the series

"I dug deep and it was uncomfortable at times. I don't think I left too many stones unturned," he added.

Baby Reindeer is available to stream on Netflix.

Anyone affected by Richard's story or themes mentioned in this article can find support by contacting Victim Support or the National Stalking Helpline.

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