Baby Reindeer: Richard Gadd’s True Story Inspired the Miniseries

Netflix’s ‘Baby Reindeer’, written by and starring Richard Gadd, depicts the journey of Donny Dunn, a comedian striving to succeed in the industry. While juggling odd jobs to support his comedic aspirations, Dunn encounters Martha, a woman he meets while working at a bar. Initially, Dunn’s act of kindness towards Martha, forgoing her bill for a cup of tea, appears innocent. However, this gesture spirals into a dark and sinister turn as Martha becomes fixated on Dunn, leading to years of stalking and harassment.

While the narrative may appear commonplace, what distinguishes it and adds depth is the portrayal of Martha as a character who is not simply a villain. Instead, she is depicted as someone driven by her vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Richard Gadd’s ability to present such a nuanced perspective stems from the fact that the story is inspired by his own experience. This allows Gadd to offer viewers a more pronounced and deeper understanding of both the characters on either end of the spectrum. He can discuss not just the personal connotations but also the structural difficulties he faced when dealing with it himself, making the miniseries quite alluring.

Richard Gadd’s Stalker Harassed Him For Five Years

Born on May 11, 1990, Richard Gadd hails from the quaint village of Wormit, located in Fife, Scotland. Driven by a natural inclination towards creativity, he embarked on a path in comedy. Gadd showcased his talent through several stand-up shows, including ‘Waiting for Gaddot,’ ‘Breaking Gadd,’ and ‘Cheese & Crack Whores,’ all of which garnered significant acclaim at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival and earned him numerous accolades. However, it was his performance of ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ at the festival in 2016 that marked a pivotal moment in his career. This show secured Gadd the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Comedy Show, catapulting him into the spotlight.

His debut solo theater show quickly propelled Gadd to stardom, garnering rave reviews, particularly for his raw vulnerability in addressing topics such as sexual violence and personal abuse. It was during this time that he was still working as a bartender that one evening he encountered a woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, at the bar. He graciously waived the bill for one of her drinks, initiating what began as friendly banter, even described by Gadd as flirtatious. However, this interaction soon took an unexpected turn.

In no time, Gadd found himself inundated with numerous messages from the woman, spanning various platforms such as text, email, and Facebook. Her persistent behavior escalated as she began attending his shows, presenting him with small gifts like hats and boxer shorts, and contacting him daily. Initially hopeful that the intensity of her contact would diminish, Gadd eventually resorted to seeking assistance from the police. However, despite his efforts, he discovered there was little legal recourse available, as the messages lacked any overt threats or menacing content.

In an interview, he shared that even while he was in the middle of it, there were numerous times when he thought about telling his story to the world. In a conversation with Netflix Tudum, he said, “In a weird way, I first started feeling like this could be a good story during the whole ordeal itself. It was one of the most intense periods, when I was listening to these voicemails. 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 2019, Richard Gadd crafted a show based on his experiences titled ‘Baby Reindeer,’ which he showcased at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The name that he used for the title was the same name that his stalker referred to him as. He was lauded for portraying the woman not simply as a stalker, but as another human being grappling with her issues, seeking solace in her interactions with Gadd. His ability to offer such a refined perspective earned him widespread acclaim, particularly for delving into the gender dynamics inherent in such encounters. Gadd reflected on the imbalance of power, acknowledging that while he may have been physically stronger than his stalker, he felt defenseless against the emotional and mental toll of her harassment.

When presented with the opportunity to share his story with a wider audience, he seized the chance to adapt it into a mini-series. Talking about his vision for the project, he 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.”

The success of ‘Baby Reindeer’ lies in Gadd’s approach to its creation. He effectively captures the frustration of grappling with a stalker, the self-doubt stemming from feeling responsible for triggering the behavior, and the ongoing interactions with law enforcement, where he felt like he was being perceived as the harasser. These elements translate effectively onto the screen. After five long years, Gadd’s real-life stalker was barred from contacting him or anyone he knew. He can now fully embrace the triumph of the series he has crafted and put the nuisance of the situation behind him.

Read More: Tom Humphrey: What Happened to the Stalker?

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