‘Baby Reindeer’ on Netflix: A True Story Rooted in Richard Gadd’s Real Experiences

By Louie Fecou
Published: April 11, 2024
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Is Baby Reindeer on Netflix based on a true story?
Baby Reindeer Key Art | Image via Netflix

Baby Reindeer is a quirky drama that tells the story of an innocent act of kindness that turns into a nightmare for the man involved. The man is Richard Gadd, and the Netflix series, originally a stage play, is based on a true story of his real-life experiences with a stalker.

Why is Baby Reindeer based on a true story?

The story is inspired by the real-life situation that comedian and writer Richard Gadd encountered. Gadd would take the events he experienced and turn them into a stage play at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh before the show was optioned to become a Netflix series.

Gadd has had other controversial and popular stage shows before and found that writing this experience as a performance was a cathartic way of dealing with it.

It also, undoubtedly, creates more eerie and thought-provoking art, since the terror of not only being stalked but knowing that the authorities can do little about it translates well to drama.

In basing the show on his experiences Gadd wanted to remove some of the sexy mystique of stalking that is often depicted in film and TV, and instead expose a more mundane and human underside that highlighted how stalking is, essentially, a mental illness.

Richard Gadd’s Personal Experiences

Is Baby Reindeer on Netflix based on a true story?

Baby Reindeer | Image via Netflix

Gadd was working in a bar when he gave a woman a cup of tea for free. This simple act led to him attracting the attention of an unhinged stalker, who would bombard him with unwanted emails, infiltrate his private life, and make his life a living hell for years.

According to The Standard, Gadd received “over 40,000 emails, 740 tweets, 350 hours of voicemail, 100 pages of letters and 45 Facebook messages” over five years.

Sadly, as the attention was deemed by the police to be nonthreatening, Gadd received very little help from the authorities. The situation would continue for a terrifying five years, as Gadd’s stalker would relentlessly pursue and contact the man through emails, social media, and letters.

Creating a play was Gadd’s only response to the helplessness he felt in the situation. The title, Baby Reindeer, is the nickname his stalker gave him.

Is Baby Reindeer also based on a stage play?

Is Baby Reindeer on Netflix based on a true story?

Baby Reindeer | Image via Netflix

The seven-part series version of Baby Reindeer streaming on Netflix is based on the solo stage play Gadd created for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Gadd conceived the idea for the play and presented it at the world-famous Fringe. The play was a one-man show, with Gadd himself the only person on stage. It did so well that it moved to London’s Bush Theatre in 2019, before being commissioned by Netflix for this new series.

There was a major reworking of the material as TV and stage are very different mediums, and the tone of the Netflix show is a lot lighter than the darkness of the stage production, but the premise and story play out just the same.

What is Baby Reindeer about?

The true story of Baby Reindeer follows Donny (Gadd), who is being stalked by the mentally unstable Martha (Jessica Gunning).

Martha is attracted to the actor-writer when he does not charge her for the cost of a cup of tea. It leads to Martha beginning a stalking campaign against Donny, who initially fails to see the red flags and even enjoying the attention until it starts to spiral out of control.

The show’s title comes from the pet name that Martha gives Donny as the twisted relationship plays out.

In a release to Netflix, Gadd would explain one of the main issues he wanted to address in the series:

“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.”

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