Baby Reindeer: The True Story Behind the Netflix Hit  

“Stalking on television tends to be very sexed up..."


Netflix’s latest hit Baby Reindeer follows the story of a struggling comedian who, in a random act of kindness, offers a vulnerable woman a cup of tea. Little does he know that this would lead to years of stalking and harassment that forces him to confront his buried and traumatic past.  

If you’ve binge watched the entire series in one sitting like us, then you’re probably not surprised that it’s a true story (as it says in the disclaimer), but you might be shocked to find that the actor who plays Donny Dunn is the real-life victim, whose real name is Richard Gadd.  

This harrowing story began as a one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Comedian Gadd explores his own responsibility and the lack of support the police gave him during the years he was stalked.  

Gadd’s stalker – known as Martha Scott in the series – played incredibly by Jessica Gunning, sent Gadd a staggering 41,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages and 106 pages of letters over the course of four years. She followed Gadd to comedy gigs and constantly showed up at his home. She also gifted him slightly sinister gifts such as sleeping pills and a baby reindeer toy, which of course, was her nickname for him.  

Ahead of the release of the Netflix series, the comedian told The Independent that he was conscious of portraying his stalker in a negative light because he believes she had a long history of mental illness. “It would have been wrong to paint her as a monster, because she’s unwell, and the system’s failed her,” he said. 


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In an interview with Netflix’s Tudum, Gadd said, “Stalking on television tends to be very sexed up. It has a mystique. It’s somebody in a dark alley way. It’s somebody who’s really sexy, who’s very normal, but then they go strange bit by bit. 

“But stalking is a mental illness. I really wanted to show the layers of stalking with a human quality I hadn’t seen on television before. It’s a stalker story turned on its head. It takes a trope and turns it on its head”, he continued. 

In the show, Martha receives a nine-month prison sentence and five-year restraining order for stalking Donny and ultimately, he can move on with his life.  

However, the stalking was not the only abuse that Gadd endured while trying to make it in the comedy industry. Gadd shared the experience of his sexual abuse by a male writer and producer, known as Darrien in the series, which led to confusion about his sexuality, and was also part of the reason he considered himself culpable for Martha’s stalking.  

The closing sequence shows Donny going to Darrien’s home to confront him only to accept an offer to work on his new show instead. An anxious Donny then goes to the nearest bar where he is offered a drink on the house and is clearly brought back to his first interaction with Martha.  

“I think that was almost the most truthful scene of the entire show. What abuse does is it creates psychological damage as well as physical damage,” Gadd told GQ.

“There’s a pattern where a lot of people who have been abused feel like they need their abusers. I don’t think it was a cynical ending, it was showing an element of abuse that hadn’t been seen on television before, which is, unfortunately, the deeply entrenched, negative, psychological effects of attachment you can sometimes have with your abuser.” 

While this show is a hard watch, its dark comedy and gripping true story keeps you hooked. This series tackles male sexual abuse, stalking and substance abuse in its rawest form. The guilt, shame and confusion is all depicted by the victim himself leaving the audience in awe of Gadd’s bravery. 

Words by Abby Sammon