Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Baby Reindeer: what Richard Gadd has said about the real ‘Darrien’

Baby Reindeer is based on Richard Gadd's real-life experience

Darrien in Baby Reindeer
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
17 April 2024
Share this:

Baby Reindeer is a hard-hitting show about a comedian, Donny, who finds himself struggling to deal with a stalker who begins to infiltrate his life and ultimately force him to come to terms with other traumas in his past, including being sexually assaulted by a man while at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show is based on a true story from Richard Gadd, who stars as Donny on the show - but what has he said about the real Darrien?

In the series, Darrien O’Connor is an older TV writer who is working on a TV show that Donny admires, Cotton Mouth, and offers him help with his career. Donny is thrilled that someone has seen his potential and works hard to impress his new mentor, but things take a terrible turn as Donny realises that he is being abused by Darrien when the pair routinely do drugs together at Darrien’s flat. 

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

Donny eventually stops seeing Darrien after spending several days at his apartment Darrien attacked him, but makes one final visit at the end of the show. The meeting is cordial, with Donny accepting Darrien’s offer to work on the reboot of the hit show - but he is devastated by the interaction afterwards - showcasing the complicated feelings he has towards his abuser. 

Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien in Baby Reindeer
Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien in Baby Reindeer

While no details about Richard’s real abuser are known, Richard has spoken about the experience of revisiting his past for the show. In a behind-the-scene Netflix video, he explained: “I have these bouts of, ‘Oh my God, everyone’s going to know my [expletive]. Oh my God, everyone’s gonna know what happened to me.” 

“It’s a true story, based on my early 20s when I went through some pretty crazy things… There’s a flashback episode where we actually go back in time to Donny going to the Edinburgh Fringe and meeting someone in the industry who helps them in their career but goes on to abuse Donny and that’s obviously taken from my real-life experiences. 

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer© Ed Miller/Netflix
Richard Gadd opened up about playing a version of himself in Baby Reindeer

“It was a hell of a thing to write and shoot. It shows a side of abuse that I don’t think we’ve seen before. I still think there’s an idea that sexual abuse is a pill in a drink and dissolves and someone wakes up and doesn’t know where they are and that does happen, and it’s a big problem, but a lot of abuse occurs in very intimate relationships. I wanted to show how complicated and psychologically messed up situations could get to.” 

Speaking about what he wants people to take away from his experience, he continued: “I hope when people see it who have been through similar things, that they feel less shame about it, they feel emboldened to take it on in their life and deal with it where they don’t see it as a dent on their character in some way. I hope it provides peace. I think it would have provided peace for me.” 

Richard Gadd in Baby Reindeer© Ed Miller/Netflix
Richard Gadd based the show on his personal experiences

He continued to explain how his struggle with dealing with his trauma left him initially welcoming his stalker’s attentions, adding: “I didn’t know who I was anymore, I felt disconnected from everyone, I was working in this very heteronormative bar, I felt like I didn’t belong and then there was someone there but saw me the way I wanted to be. Having someone at the end of the bar who was pure, unadulterated adoration is what I needed but it was foolish of me and it was using someone and I was punished for it in quite an extreme way.” 

Richard Gadd and Nava Mau in Baby Reindeer© Netflix
Richard Gadd and Nava Mau in Baby Reindeer

He also addressed it in an interview with The Guardian, saying: “Keeping this in was really hard. And I knew the only way I’d be free of it is if I start to tell people. I don’t think anyone knows how bad it is until it happens. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I think.”

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.

Sign up to HELLO Daily! for the best royal, celebrity and lifestyle coverage

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

More TV and Film

See more