The Creator Of ‘Baby Reindeer’ Won't Comment On The Real-Life Identities Of His Characters Again

netflix baby reindeer martha where is she now
When Viewers Stalk The Stalker Netflix

It’s a dangerous habit and yet we’re all guilty of it – to some extent. In the 10 seconds between when the Netflix wheel starts swirling and the next episode loads, we’ve often found ourselves Googling the ‘real story’ and ‘true victims’ behind some of our favourite true crime documentaries, including The Tinder Swindler, Making A Murderer and The Keepers. You could put it down to the true crime-obsessed digital age we found ourselves living in, or our growing fascination with craving knowledge on-demand, but there’s an increasingly potent power dynamic at play among viewers who feel a sense of superiority over those whose lives play out and unravel on-screen.

For many, such sleuthing is harmless – a mere itch to relieve before turning the television off at night and going to bed. For others, it can develop into an unhealthy obsession that has the potential to evolve into something far more sinister by threatening police investigations as viewers become a stalker themselves. This has never been more apparent than in the weeks that have followed the release of Baby Reindeer.


Netflix's Baby Reindeer – a former one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – landed on Netflix on April 11 and became the number one most-watched show on the platform, in over 30 countries. The show was viewed more than 2.6 million times in its first week alone.

baby reindeer featuring donny sitting on a bus

The show stars Scottish comedian Richard Gadd as a fictionalised version of himself named Donny Dunn, a struggling comedian and bartender who finds himself stalked by a woman named Martha (played by actor Jessica Gunning) for over four and a half years. The seven-part limited series explores themes of life purpose, empathy, victimhood, shame and guilt, with Gunning describing it as anything but ‘your conventional storyline’.

Over the course of her stalking endeavours, Martha (the stalker’s real name has been kept anonymous) sent Gadd 41,071 emails, 350 hours’ worth of voicemails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters, and gifts, ranging from a reindeer toy, sleeping pills to a woolly hat and boxer shorts. She sat outside his home, frequented his workplace on a daily basis, attended his comedy gigs, and stalked his parents and a trans woman he was dating.

Despite the trauma Gadd endured, he told GQ that he has never revealed her real name to the media and changed key details about her for the Netflix show on purpose. ‘We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognise herself,’ he said. ‘What’s been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone.’ Gadd also told Variety that he wanted to keep certain information about Martha anonymous as he is ‘aware that some characters in it are vulnerable people, so you don’t want to make their lives more difficult’. (Gadd doesn’t know Martha’s current whereabouts and had a restraining order against her, but did not want her to go to prison).

a scene from baby reindeer featuring donny and martha scott at the camden the heart bar

While Gadd has made his intentions of protecting Martha’s anonymity abundantly clear, it hasn’t stopped some internet sleuths from taking on the role of detective, and attempting to uncover the true identities of the individuals portrayed in the series, such as Martha, Darrien (played by Tom Goodman-Hill), who portrays the TV writer who grooms Donny, and Teri (played by Nava Mau, an actor, director and cultural worker), who dates Donny.

A quick look at Google Trends and searches for ‘Martha Baby Reindeer’ hit an all-time high on April 21 in the United Kingdom. Users of X have also gone to extreme lengths to uncover who they believe is the real life stalker, sharing tweets from 2014 from an individual who made references which are used in the show and whose name has since been trending – among others – on Google.

In response to one video, shared by a user on TikTok displaying what they believe to be alleged evidence of the real-life Martha, users have questioned why people are going against the privacy wishes Gadd intentionally expressed to protect Martha. ‘There is no reason for anyone to go looking for her Richard Gadd had said to leave her alone. Why give her the attention she clearly doesn’t need?’ one wrote.

In the series, Donny explains the confusion he felt around reporting Martha’s crimes when he failed to report Darrien’s sexual assault. ‘When it came to the point of going to the police, I just couldn’t stand the irony of reporting her but not him,’ he says, adding: ‘There was always a sense that she was ill, that she couldn’t help it, whereas he was a pernicious, manipulative groomer. To admit to her was to admit to him, and I hadn’t admitted him to anyone yet.’

Other fans on TikTok and Reddit have theorised – without proof, yet again – that they know the British director, writer, comedian, and actor who inspired the fictional character of Darrien. ‘Can we pretty please put this energy into finding the real-life Darrien? Because unless all of that was fictionalised, he’s likely still working in the industry and has a long list of victims outside of Gadd,’ one Reddit user commented on a post. Another added: ‘I’m fine with not knowing who Martha is, maybe because her portrayal was rather sympathetic at times. But also she at least had to answer for her issues at some point. Darrien basically got away with it and could still be doing that sh*t.’

Gadd’s friend Sean Foley has said he has contacted police after being wrongly accused of being his abuser online. The Metro reports that the writer and director says he has been incorrectly identified by trolls as the real-life person behind the character in a series of ‘defamatory, abusive and threatening’ online posts. The 59-year-old, who will step down in his role as Artistic Director from the Birmingham Rep this summer, reportedly said he has contacted the police, who are now investigating the allegations. ‘Police have been informed and are investigating all defamatory abusive and threatening posts against me.’

In response, Gadd has pleaded with viewers not to speculate about the real people behind the characters in the show, noting that it’s ‘not the point’ of the series, and that innocent people are being ‘unfairly’ caught up in the rumours.

‘People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation,’ he wrote on Instagram. ‘Please don’t speculate on who the real-life people could be. That’s not the point of our show.’

netflix baby reindeer martha where is she now
richard gadd - Instagram

In fact, after Piers Morgan interviewed the person who has is allegedly the 'real' Martha, Gadd reiterated his stance on the internet sleuthing that proceeded his creation. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter from May 13, he said: 'I can’t confirm or deny anything relating to the real life people who the characters are based on in the show. I know for every single part, there’s been about five or six people who have been sort of named as each part, even all the way down to the pub manager. The internet’s always going to do its thing. I can’t really comment on that.'

He then added: 'If I wanted the real life people to be found, I would've made it a documentary.'

By now, we should all know the dangers of thinking of ourselves as true detectives on social media. Last year, for example, we saw this play out after mother-of-two Nicola Bulley went missing in Lancashire and amateur detectives descended on the area to carry out their own investigations. The incident resulted in detectives being ‘inundated with false information, accusations and rumours’ which were ‘distracting them’, they told Sky. A dispersal order was issued to break up groups of ‘amateur sleuths’ at the time, and a YouTuber named Dan Duffy was arrested and received a penalty notice.

A year earlier, several 'suspects' were forced to go into hiding after TikTok sleuths accused them of murdering four students in the November 2022 Idaho murders. The self-described ‘investigators’ shared pictures of the 'suspects' places of work and home addresses, resulting in several of the individuals facing abuse and threats. At the time, videos attempting to find the victims’ killer racked up almost 400 million views on TikTok. Again, in 2021, social media users were guilty of sharing misinformation during the Gabby Petito case, as they reported potential sightings of Petito and her ex-boyfriend Brian Laundrie (who was later found to have murdered Petito), that turned out to be wrong. 'Social media — particularly with TikTok — has led its users to believe they are main characters in a murder mystery,' wrote Kara Kennedy last year on the subject of online sleuths in The Spectator.

The interest of true crime isn’t new, but the way social media algorithms encourage sleuthing, as it pushes topics and related content that’s trending to the top of news feeds, and the way we engage with them, is. And that’s where we need to be careful. While it’s likely some social media users piggyback onto true crime topics to build followers and engagement, given its popularity, it’s understandable why others delve into the subject with innocent intentions. Who hasn't wanted to know how and why a crime was committed in order to learn how to protect oneself from a similar fate?

But we cross a perilous line when we start to embed ourselves in real-life dramas that have no place for bystanders who may unknowingly threaten the livelihoods, reputations, and lives of innocent individuals. As we’ve seen in the aftermath of Baby Reindeer’s release, we must question at what point intrigue in finding a stalker develops into stalking itself.

Baby Reindeer is available to watch on Netflix in the UK now.

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