'Baby Reindeer' is based on Richard Gadd's real life. He's asking internet sleuths to stop trying to expose the people behind the characters.

The Netflix limited series is about Gadd's traumatic experiences with a stalker and, separately, being a victim of sexual assault.

Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in Netflix's limited series
Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in Netflix's limited series "Baby Reindeer." (Ed Miller/Netflix)
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Spoiler alert: This article contains storyline details about Baby Reindeer.

Richard Gadd wrote and stars in Baby Reindeer, Netflix’s new hit limited series, about his real-life experience with a stalker and, separately, being a victim of sexual violence. Now, as the show tops the streaming service’s most-watched list for the second week, Gadd’s calling on viewers to not “speculate on who any of the real-life people [the characters are based on] could be.” His plea comes after a director he previously worked with contacted police after being falsely accused of being the Scottish star’s abuser.

Gadd plays struggling comedian Donny Dunn, who’s being stalked by a woman, Martha Scott (played by Jessica Gunning), who nicknames him “Baby Reindeer.” The fictionalized account of the real story, told in seven episodes, is adapted from Gadd's Olivier Award-winning play of the same name, based on his own experience. In real life, Gadd’s stalker reportedly sent him more than 40,000 emails, 350 hours of voicemail messages, 106 pages of letters, dozens of social media messages and bizarre gifts (including a reindeer toy and sleeping pills) over three years.

Since Baby Reindeer premiered on April 11, it has logged more than 15.9 million views. Not only is it Netflix's most-watched series in the U.S., but it’s also in the top 10 in 89 countries.

In this culture of true-crime obsession and internet sleuthing, viewers have been trying to uncover the real-life identity of Martha, as well as the character Darrien (played by Tom Goodman-Hill), an older comedian who drugged Donny and sexually assaulted him while he was unconscious. Many Reddit threads are trying to crack the real identities of the characters in the story.

On April 23, British actor/writer/director Sean Foley — who directed Gadd in Urban Myths in 2019 — wrote on social media that he contacted police due to “defamatory abusive and threatening posts” made about him by people speculating, without any evidence, that the Darrien character is him.

Gadd took to social media to ask viewers to stop trying to sleuth. He wrote, “People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation. Please don’t speculate on who any of the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.” Foley shared the post.

Before Baby Reindeer came to Netflix, Gadd told his story in a play by the same name that premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019 and had a successful run at London's Bush Theatre. It won Britain's Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre.

It’s a true story but “tweaked slightly” — names, details and chronology — “to create dramatic climaxes,” he told U.K.’s Guardian. “It’s very emotionally true, obviously: I was severely stalked and severely abused. But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it’s based on.”

On Britain's This Morning, Gadd said the stalking was “relentless” and “an assault on all senses, across all media: email, phones, everything. It felt like a barrage, a constant sort of 24/7 issue.” He admitted to making “stupid errors” with the stalker because he was in “a bad place” and “felt like I needed someone to give me attention.”

Baby Reindeer Ed Miller/Netflix
Gadd plays a struggling comedian in the limited series. (Ed Miller/Netflix)

In conversation with Netflix’s Tudum fan site, Gadd said when he first realized it could be “a good story” was “during the ordeal itself,” explaining, “I’d go to sleep at night and these voicemails — her words would bounce around my eyelids. I remember thinking, ‘God, if I was ever to speak about this onstage, I’d fire the words around. Put the voicemails in a big cacophony and fire it.’ That’s how the play was born.”

In making the show, he made sure not to glorify Martha’s behavior, telling the same outlet, “Stalking on television tends to be very sexed up. It has a mystique. It’s somebody in a dark alleyway. 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.”

In the series, Martha pleads guilty to stalking and harassment and is sentenced to nine months in prison. In real life, Gadd told U.K.’s Times only that the situation with his stalker had been “resolved.” He admitted to having “mixed feelings” about it because he “didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison.”

As for whether he’s worried this show could resurrect the stalking, he told Variety, “Due to where things ended in real life, it’s not a concern for me.” He told British GQ that the show also went “to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognize herself,” adding, it’s “not a fact-by-fact profile of someone.”

In the series, Donny is about to confront Darrien, his sexual abuser but then changes his mind. Gadd called it “the most truthful scene of the entire show” in an Esquire U.K interview. “What abuse does is it creates psychological damage as well as physical damage. There’s a pattern where a lot of people who have been abused feel like they need their abusers.”

While it isn’t known what happened to his real abuser, Gadd told the Guardian that turning the story of abuse into art helped “free” him from the trauma. He added that he’s proud the story has “struck a chord,” saying, “I really did believe in it, but it’s taken off so quickly that I do feel a bit windswept.”

Baby Reindeer is now streaming on Netflix.

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