Is Donny Dunn Really Based on Richard Gadd? Where is He Now?

If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that there are layers to every individual as well as every situation, no matter how clear, complex, or convoluted they might seem overall. This much is actually perfectly evidenced in Netflix’s ‘Baby Reindeer,’ a drama chronicling the tale of comedian Donny Dunn as he deals with having a middle-aged stalker in Martha Scott. Though what truly makes it work is the incredible humanity plus vulnerability portrayed by its lead actors, Richard Gadd (also the brain behind this seven-part original) and Jessica Gunning.

Donny Dunn is Essentially Richard Gadd’s Alter Ego

Since this series is entirely based upon the eponymous one-man stage play actor, comic, and writer Richard had penned from the events of his own life, it’s apparent Donny is a part of him. We specify “part” because while not every aspect of the character is true to who he really is, a majority of their actions, experiences, reactions as well as traumas are more than just shared. In other words, yes, Richard was sexually assaulted while he was initially trying to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry, following which he found himself with a dangerous stalker.

“It’s a true story,” Richard recently told Netflix’s Tudum before specifying he always knew it was one he would someday openly share with the world so as to underline its intricacies. “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 [my stalker had left me]. 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.”

This play actually made its debut during the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it received undeniable acclaim and thus kickstarted talks of this television adaptation that goes much deeper. “There’s something slightly crazy about it, the whole thing, doing it — the layers upon layers,” Richard candidly said. “It is a heavy brew and it’s all very challenging for sure.” The fact he had to relive every bit of his trauma in excruciating detail to ensure we get every aspect of it is heavy too, and he didn’t have to, but he did it anyway, not just for the art but also for himself – like he said in the show as Donny, by not giving up and sharing his tale with the world (albeit while keeping the name of his abusers fictional) he ensured they didn’t win.

In fact, Richard did this on purpose, telling Tudum, he never once wanted to portray “a victim narrative” or a negative narrative. Instead, “I think art is quite interesting when you don’t know who you are on the side of. I wanted it to be layered, and I wanted it to capture the human experience. The human experience is that people are good, but they have bits of bad and they make mistakes.” He further told The Independent that he doesn’t “want to speak for every person that’s been sexually abused, but one of the most common ramifications is self-blame… I’ve lived in a prison of self-hate and self-punishment. But writing it down in a chronological way, and processing it… I guess I learned to empathise with myself a little bit more.”

Furthermore, through Donny, Richard wanted to have a bisexual representation, one that he related to and could represent without any issues because he believes it is unrepresented “not just on screen but in life in general.” He then candidly clarified his intentions of showcasing gender and sexuality as a non-rigid thing by stating, “There’s an indoctrination you can get from a young age – [the idea] that you have to be one or the other. Sometimes that pressure can come from both sides. There is still this notion that if you’re a man and you’ve slept with a man, then there’s no going back. It’s rubbish.” So yes, Donny Dunn is essentially Richard Gadd.

Richard Gadd is Now Working on a New Project

Just like Donny, although Richard is a native of Finn, Scotland, he is now happily based in London, England, where he’s finally getting ready to move on from the past for good. From what we can tell, after five years since he first premiered the tale of ‘Baby Reindeer,’ he’s closing this chapter with the Netflix production and preparing to write a 6-part BBC series by the name of ‘Lions.’ This original show will explore the idea of contemporary masculinity through the lens of comedy, romance, and trauma, which means it’s right under Richard’s alley and will make us laugh just as much as it’ll make us question the social norms surrounding the masculinity of today. As for his personal life, it appears as if he’s enjoying the fruits of his labor these days by exploring the world, having the time of his life alongside loved ones, and taking up different opportunities to expand not just his standing but also that of others like him across the world.

Read More: Is Martha Scott Based on Richard Gadd’s Real Stalker?