The shocking true story behind Netflix’s hit thriller series ‘Baby Reindeer’

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TRIGGER WARNING: This article makes mention of sensitive topics including substance abuse, mental health, bullying and harassment, and sexual abuse, and may be distressing for some readers.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or have taken a sabbatical from social media, we are sure the name Baby Reindeer is one you are familiar with.

WATCH NOW: Baby Reindeer Trailer.

The Netflix thriller series was released globally on April 11th, 2024, quickly going on to become one of the streaming platforms’ most critically acclaimed shows since the likes of Black Mirror.

A certified hit with audiences, the seven-episode limited drama series- is truly chilling in nature. But it’s the horrifying true story behind the hit series that has left fans even more unnerved. 

The true story behind Baby Reindeer truly is stranger than fiction. (Credit: Netflix)

What is Baby Reindeer about?

Baby Reindeer has been adapted from a stage play of the same name which first debuted in 2019. 

Written by and starring comedian Richard Gadd as a fictionalised version of himself, the drama follows his character Donny, who after meeting a down-in-the-dumps Martha while working at his pub job in London, finds himself embroiled in a series of unfortunate events.

From their first encounter where Donny offers a depressed Martha (portrayed by Jessica Gunning) a cup of tea out of sympathy, audiences follow along their ‘relationship’ as Martha becomes obsessed with Donny as she stalks him and wrecks chaos on his life.

What’s worse is as his interactions with Martha become more and more concerning, Donny finds himself reflecting on his own demons, including past drug and alcohol abuse, being sexually assaulted and even coming to terms with his own sexuality.

Jessica Gunning plays the character Martha. (Credit: Netflix)

Is Baby Reindeer based on a real story?

Without spoiling the series for any viewers yet to tune in, it is in short very shocking. 

Given this, fans were quick to ask series creator Richard Gadd about where this fictional story was cemented in fact.

“[It’s] emotionally 100 percent true,” the 34-year-old shared in a recent interview with Variety adding that other aspects of the series were “borrowed from instances that happened to me and real people that I met”.

“But of course, you can’t tell the exact truth, for both legal and artistic reasons. I mean there’s certain protections, you can’t just copy somebody else’s life and name and put it onto television,” he clarified. 

“And obviously, we were very aware that some characters in it are vulnerable people, so you don’t want to make their lives more difficult. So you have to change things to protect yourself and protect other people.”

Richard Gadd stars as Donny, a fictionalised version of himself. (Credit: Netflix)

Speaking of vulnerable individuals, Richard himself has drawn on his own experience with a stalker who called him ‘Baby Reindeer’ – ultimately serving as the main inspiration for his play and subsequent television series.

Across four years, the stand-up comedian was harassed with more than 40,000 emails, 350 hours of voicemails, over 740 tweets, almost 50 Facebook messages, and even 106 pages of letters sent in the mail. 

Even more concerning are the ‘gifts’ she sent him in the mail, which varied from a plush reindeer toy to boxer shorts and even sleeping pills. She also turned up at his house, his workplace, and even his comedy shows which, according to him, are actions that surprisingly exist “within the realms of legality”.

This ‘chance’ encounter turns into something much more sinister. (Credit: Netflix)

Initially, Richard says that he and “everyone at the pub thought it was funny that I had an admirer,” he shared with The Times

“Then she started to invade my life, following me, turning up at my gigs, waiting outside my house, sending thousands of voicemails and emails.”

Despite this, he says the character Martha (and her real-life counterpart) shouldn’t be painted as a monster because he believes “she’s unwell, and the systems failed her,” he told The Independent.

“I certainly egged the situation on before I realised that it was as dangerous as it was,” he admitted candidly to the same publication.

“I can’t emphasise enough how much of a victim she is in all of this. Stalking and harassment is a form of mental illness. It would have been wrong to paint her as a monster.”

Martha is based on a real person. (Credit: Netflix)

What happened to the real Martha in Baby Reindeer?

Richard has not shared any details regarding her identity. 

He also says he isn’t worried about being contacted or stalked again following the release of Baby Reindeer, telling Variety that the situation between the pair was “resolved” and “not a concern”.

In an additional interview with The Times, he shed further light on what had happened with his stalker, suggesting that while he could have pressed charges, “he didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison”.

More recently, Richard took to his Instagram stories to ask fans of Baby Reindeer to stop trying to find the ‘real Martha’.

“Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.”

If this article raised any anguish for you, help is available today. Contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. In emergencies please call 000.


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