Baby Reindeer’s Richard Gadd: ‘If I wanted the real people to be found, I would’ve made a documentary’

Creator of Netflix series says people he loves are getting caught up in speculation over true identity of characters

Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning in Baby Reindeer. Photograph: Netflix
After the programme’s release in April, some viewers began trying to find the real people who had inspired events in the series. Photograph: Netflix

Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd has reiterated his plea for internet sleuths to stop looking for the show’s real life counterparts, saying, “If I wanted the real life people to be found, I would’ve made it a documentary”.

Gadd spoke to the Hollywood Reporter before Piers Morgan interviewed the woman described as the inspiration behind Martha, a character who stalks Gadd’s character Donny after he serves her a free cup of tea in the pub where he works.

Fiona Harvey (58) has described Gadd’s account as a “work of fiction” and “hyperbole” and denied being a stalker, telling Morgan that she was considering legal action against Netflix and Gadd.

Fiona Harvey appearing in an interview on the Piers Morgan Uncensored's YouTube channel. Photograph: Piers Morgan Uncensored/TalkTV/PA Wire

After the programme’s release in April, some viewers began trying to find the real people who had inspired events in the series, which is prefaced with the words: “This is a true story”. Actor, writer and director Sean Foley, a friend of Gadd’s, was forced to contact police after he was falsely accused online of being a rapist.


Gadd asked people to stop guessing at the time, saying that “people I love, have worked with, and admire ... are unfairly getting caught up in speculation”.

“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,” Gadd told THR. “The internet’s always going to do its thing ... There was a video the other day of someone had sent me of someone claiming to be Teri. I’d never met them before in my life.”

He said he didn’t agree with “the sleuth thing”, saying he wanted the show “to be received as a piece of art, and I want [people to enjoy the show] as a piece of art”.

“I’m called Donny Dunn. It exists in a sort of fictional realm; even though it’s based on truth, it exists in a fictional realm. Let’s enjoy the world that I’ve created. If I wanted the real-life people to be found, I would’ve made it a documentary. I’ve spoken publicly about how I don’t want people to do it and if I start playing a game of whack-a-mole, then I’m almost adding to it. I don’t think I’ll ever comment on it ever again.”

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Some media, legal and industry figures have criticised how thinly disguised some of the fictionalised true elements in Baby Reindeer appear to be. “Within the TV industry, particularly the five former analogue channels, jaws were dropping. This was surely a mega compliance failure?” Marina Hyde wrote in the Guardian, while TV showrunner Russell T Davies said the BBC would have been “much stricter” about compliance in Baby Reindeer than Netflix has been, adding: “Compliance and editorial policy drives us mad here, but I sleep at night.”

Gadd said he had to retreat into a “very raw and very damaged” mindset when filming Baby Reindeer and that he went from weighing 96 kilograms to 68 kilograms “because I wanted to feel vulnerable and fragile in my body”.

Reflecting on how his life has changed since the show became a global hit, Gadd said he went from having 3,000 Instagram followers to more than 400,000, and that on a recent flight to Los Angeles, the pilots came out and asked to meet him, which was “quite surreal”.

“I still don’t think of myself as famous ... I went to see The Pogues the other day and I went into a pub beforehand, naively thinking that I could just go in and sit down with some friends. But it was bedlam, it was chaos,” he added. “People coming up all the time, all the time, sharing stories and talking about the show and how it affected them. I kind of thought, oh, I can’t really go into pubs any more and expect to sit there quietly in a corner and have some food.”

He said that, as a “very self-conscious person”, the new attention “can be quite challenging”.

“I still very much feel like the same person in a lot of ways. I am not very big online, and I don’t post much and I don’t read much. I don’t Google the show or myself. I still keep a quiet life,” he said. “But I have noticed the crazy part of it, the sudden public attention with people coming up to me and the sudden feeling that there’s more eyes on me all the time.” – Guardian