The True Story Behind Baby Reindeer Is Just As Chilling As The Netflix Series Depicts

CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault, stalking, and abuse.

Netflix’s new drama-thriller series Baby Reindeer has received rave reviews from audience members and critics alike, sending it skyrocketing to the top of Netflix’s charts. With its gripping story of “stalking and abuse and love and loneliness”, it’ll leave you on the edge of your seat with an equal amount of goosebumps and questions.

Creator of the controversial seven-episode miniseries, Scottish writer and comedian Richard Gadd, says the haunting narrative is based on real life, but some details have been changed for “legal and artistic reasons”.

This means the big question on viewers’ minds is which aspects have been changed — particularly around the true identities of certain key characters such as Donny Dunn, Martha Scott, and Darrien O’Connor.

Needless to say, minor spoiler warning for Baby Reindeer, so if you haven’t watched it then you’ve been advised not to proceed.

Table Of Contents:

What is ‘Baby Reindeer‘ about?

Baby Reindeer follows struggling comedian Donny Dunn, who becomes the victim of convicted stalker Martha Scott — played by Jessica Gunning.

Donny (left) and Martha (right). Source: Netflix.

As Donny’s feels the horrific effects of Martha’s stalking, he is also groomed and sexually assaulted by a TV producer named Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill). It’s a dark and disturbing show, that unpacks the traumatic emotional ramifications of various types of abuse.

Is ‘Baby Reindeer‘ based on a true story?

Richard Gadd has been open about the fact that Baby Reindeer on Netflix is based on his autobiographical one-man-show from 2019 of the same name, which recounts true events that occurred in his real life during his early 20s.

The opening frame of the show tells viewers that Baby Reindeer is a true story, but when you’re writing a hit TV show then surely some elements of the true story are going to get altered for the screen, right?

Gunning as Martha. Source: Netflix.

Well, in an interview with Variety, Gadd confirms that the show is “all emotionally 100% true”.

“It’s all borrowed from instances that happened to me and real people that I met. But of course, you can’t do the exact truth, for both legal and artistic reasons,” he told the publication.

“I mean there’s certain protections, you can’t just copy somebody else’s life and name and put it onto television. 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.”

Gadd also confirmed that some elements of the timeline were altered in order to better adapt for the screen, admitting that in real life “a lot of stalking is quite boring at times” due to its obsessively repetitive nature.

In a special promotional piece for Netflix, Gadd revealed the true scale of the stalking that inspired Baby Reindeer.

“47,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, 744 Tweets, 46 Facebook messages, four fake Facebook accounts, 106 pages of letters,” Gadd tallied up in the video.

Gadd also explained that by sharing his experience of his own grooming and sexual abuse, he might hopefully change perceptions of what it’s ‘supposed’ to look like.

“I still think there’s an idea that sexual abuse is, kind of, a pill in a drink that dissolves and someone wakes up and they don’t know where they are. And that does happen and that is a big problem,” said Gadd.

“But a lot of abuse occurs in very intimate relationships. I think I wanted to show just how complicated and psychologically messed up situations can get to.

@netflix richard gadd opens up about why it was important to portray his experience of abuse in #BabyReindeer ♬ original sound – Netflix

Who are the characters in ‘Baby Reindeer‘ based on?

Given that Donny is played by his real-life counterpart, it’s not the main character’s identity that people are looking for. The internet is, however, currently rife with speculation on who the IRL counterparts are for Darrien and Martha.

Plenty of keyboard detectives have taken to TikTok and social media sites to share theories on who Darrien is, due to the fact that he would seemingly be a high-profile figure in the television production scene in London.

Goodman-Hill as Darrien. Source: Netflix.

People are also desperate to figure out who the real-life Martha is, caught up in some morbid curiosity.

However, Gadd has implored people not to speculate on their identities, which could potentially harm innocent people.

“Hi everyone. People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation,” Gadd wrote on an Instagram Story.

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

Source: @mrrichardgadd Instagram.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Gadd also shared that he has no contact with Martha’s real-life counterpart, and is unsure how she would feel about the depiction of her actions.

“I don’t know how she’s reacting to it really but I’m sure with a sense of embarrassment,” Gadd told The Telegraph.

And it seems Gadd was partially correct, as an unnamed woman has come out and declared that she is the real-life Martha — and that SHE is the victim of the show.

“I’m the victim here, not Richard Gadd. I’ve had death threats as a result of his show despite the fact that a lot of the things he claimed are just not true,” the woman told the Daily Record.

How many episodes are in the ‘Baby Reindeer‘ series?

The first season of Netflix’s Baby Reindeer has seven episodes, which were all uploaded on the same day — because Lord forbid we actually have to wait for episode television anymore.

All seven episodes were written by Richard Gad, however the role of director was split halfway through the season. Weronika Tofilska directed Episode One through to Episode Four, and the final three instalments in the series were directed by Josephine Bornebusch.

Who’s in the ‘Baby Reindeer‘ cast?

The cast of Baby Reindeer features a range of diverse actors as the people involved in Donny’s life during the intense experience, including:

  • Richard Gadd — Donny Dunn.
  • Jessica Gunning — Martha Scott, Donny’s stalker.
  • Nava MauTeri, Donny’s new partner.
  • Tom Goodman-Hill — Darrien O’Connor, Donny’s abuser.
  • Shalom Brune-Franklin — Keeley, Donny’s ex.
  • Nina Sosanya — Liz, Donny’s landlord and Keeley’s mother.
  • Michael Wildman — Donny’s boss.
  • Danny Kirrane — Gino, Donny’s colleague.
  • Amanda Root — Donny’s mother.
  • Mark Lewis Jones — Donny’s father.

Where can I watch ‘Baby Reindeer‘?

Baby Reindeer can be streamed on Netflix, and was released in full to the platform on April 11, 2024.

All seven episodes are 30 minutes long, and the show has received a rare 100% fresh rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.