'Baby Reindeer': Everything to Know About the True Story Behind the Netflix Hit

Richard Gadd, Baby Reindeer
Ed Miller/Netflix

A woman came forward in the wake of the show's release claiming that the character of Martha is based on her. She has now sued Netflix.

If you have found yourself hearing the words "Baby Reindeer" over and over again in recent weeks, you surely are not alone as the title of Netflix's latest home run series seems to be everywhere at the moment. 

Since Baby Reindeer hit the streaming platform on April 11, word of mouth has spread like wildfire to make this show No. 1 on Netflix's charts and to shine a major spotlight on the show's writer and creator, Richard Gadd. The Scottish comedian and actor, 34, also stars in the limited series which follows the shocking but true story of his own experience with a stalker, "Martha Scott," who sent him 41,071 emails, 744 tweets and 350 hours worth of voicemails over the course of six years. 

A curious name for a show, viewers do not have to wait long into the first episode to find out why Gadd opted to call the series -- and the original one-man West End play it is based on -- Baby Reindeer. The show's name derives from the sobriquet Gadd's stalker referred to him as before police officially stepped in. 

Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn and Jessica Gunning as Martha Scott in Netflix's 'Baby Reindeer' - Ed Miller/Netflix

Baby Reindeer begins with Donny Dunn (Gadd), helping out a complete stranger, Martha (Jessica Gunning), by providing her with a cup of tea on the house inside the pub where he works. The simple act of kindness quickly turns out to be one that he would regret as Martha -- whose name and other details have been changed in the show to protect her identity -- latches on to him and begins a parasitic relationship. The woman begins visiting him every day at work, messaging him non-stop and even harassing other people in his life, including his parents, girlfriend and co-workers. 

While many have watched the series in shock and horror at the whole ordeal -- including the fact that investigators refused to intervene until Martha, a serial stalker, began contacting and threatening his family and loved ones -- others have been left to wonder just how much of the show is real. 

According to Gadd, much of the show -- including his painful recollection of drug addiction and sexual abuse at the hands of a mentor in the writing space -- is pulled straight from his own experience and "emotionally 100 percent true," he told Variety. For obvious legal reasons, however, many details have been adjusted. Some who watch the show may be surprised to find out that some details -- namely the scale of the stalking -- have been toned down. 

Richard Gadd, star and creator of 'Baby Reindeer' - Ed Miller/Netflix

Forbes reports that in the stage play -- which premiered at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival before winning an Olivier on the West End -- Gadd reveals that in addition to the in-person harassment, Martha sent 41,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages and 106 pages worth of letters. 

In the show, Martha sends Donny up to 80 emails a day, sits at a bus stop near his home, assaults both his ex-girlfriend and current love interest and follows him to standup show after standup show where he -- an aspiring comedian -- is met by heckling from her in the audience. At one point, the woman even attempts to turn the crowd at a festival against him by jeering at his jokes and making damning accusations. 

While the show ends with Martha sentenced to nine months in prison, Gadd has been incredibly tight-lipped about how his real-life stalker was dealt with, only that he has "mixed feelings" about how the situation was resolved, he once told The Independent

"I can't emphasize enough how much of a victim she is in all this," he said. "Stalking and harassment is a form of mental illness. It would have been wrong to paint her as a monster, because she's unwell, and the system's failed her."

Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer' - Netflix

At the time of the sold-out stage play's release, he made similar comments to The Guardian in which he also expanded on his own role in the situation and how he does not believe he is blameless. 

"It would be unfair to say she was an awful person and I was a victim. That didn't feel true," the writer said in 2019. "I did loads of things wrong and made the situation worse. I wasn't a perfect person [back then], so there's no point saying I was."

The comments are echoed in the show where Gadd's character expresses his complicated outlook on his role in Martha's attachment and how his own sexual abuse at the hands of Darrien O'Connor (Tom Goodman-Hill), an older comedian who groomed then abused him. Gadd believes that his horrific history of sexual violence at the hands of someone he trusted made him a "sticking plaster" for someone like Martha to come along and become attached to. 

Richard Gadd in 'Baby Reindeer' on Netflix - Ed Miller/Netflix

While Gadd has not been shy about putting it all out on the line, one thing he is not here for is anyone who is trying to expose or uncover the identity of his real-life stalker or his abuser. In Baby Reindeer, the actor makes a point to touch on Martha's own traumatic experiences that shaped her into the person she became. In the weeks since the show's release, he has asked his recent barrage of new fans and followers to avoid falling down a rabbit hole and speculating about the identities of his rapist and stalker. 

"Hi Everyone, People I love, have worked with, and admire (including Sean Foley) are unfairly getting caught up in speculation," he wrote in an Instagram Story, per Today. "Please don't speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That's not the point of our show."

Despite those efforts, a woman named Fiona Harvey has since come forward, claiming that the character of Martha is based off of her. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Harvey denied many plot points of Baby Reindeer and said that she plans to sue both Gadd and Netflix for the character's portrayal on the show. 

"I find it quite obscene. I find it horrifying, misogynistic," she said, alleging that "some of the death threats have been really terrible online. People [are] phoning me up. It's been absolutely horrendous. I wouldn't give credence to something like that, and it's not really my kind of drama."

Upon finding out about the Netflix series, Harvey said she felt "absolutely horrendous," noting, "I couldn't believe this had happened."

"I'm not a stalker," she said. "I've not been to jail... It's just complete nonsense."

As for why she believes Gadd made the show, Harvey said that she thinks he has "got extreme psychiatric problems" and had monetary motives.

"He'd failed as a comedian, he'd failed as an actor, so therefore, let's make some money, sell this to Netflix," she said. "... I would challenge him to leave me alone... Get a life. Get a proper job. I am horrified at what you've done."

Baby Reindeer star Nava Mau revealed that the cast, including Gadd, decided not to watch Harvey's interview.

Talking with ET from the 2024 Gotham TV Awards in New York City on June 4, the 32-year-old actress said that when Harvey sat down with Morgan for a supposed "tell-all" interview, the Baby Reindeer team opted to steer clear of the drama.

"Yeah, we decided not to watch it, so we didn't," Mau told ET. The Mexican-born actress didn't elaborate on the reasoning, but it's evident that as Harvey has recently threatened legal action, it may be best to leave it up to the higher-ups and lawyers. 

Jessica Gunning, Richard Gadd and Nava Mau at the 2024 Gotham TV Awards. - Cindy Ord/WireImage via Getty Images

In late May, Harvey -- through senior attorney Chris Daw -- told ET that she plans to sue "all of those who have lied about me and used my image to make large sums of money for themselves."

On June 6, Harvey sued Netflix -- but did not name Gadd as a defendant -- and alleged defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and violations of her right of publicity. She is demanding at least $170 million in damages, according to court documents sent to ET.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and alleges Netflix told "brutal lies" about her in the Baby Reindeer series.

"The lies that Defendants told about Harvey to over 50 million people worldwide include that Harvey is a twice-convicted stalker who was sentenced to five years in prison, and that Harvey sexually assaulted Gadd," her complaint states. "Defendants told these lies, and never stopped, because it was a better story than the truth, and better stories made money."

The lawsuit continues, "As a result of Defendants' lies, malfeasance and utterly reckless misconduct, Harvey’s life had been ruined. Simply, Netflix and Gadd destroyed her reputation, her character and her life."

Baby Reindeer begins by claiming it's a "true story." But Harvey's lawsuit alleges that Netflix "did literally nothing to confirm the 'true story' that Gadd told."

"It never investigated whether Harvey was convicted, a very serious misrepresentation of the facts," the complaint continued. "It did nothing to understand the relationship between Gadd and Harvey, if any. It did nothing to determine whether other facts, including an assault, the alleged stalking or the conviction was accurate."

Tom Goodman-Hill plays Darrien O'Connor in 'Baby Reindeer' - Netflix

ET has reached out to Netflix for comment. 

Gadd previously told Netflix's TUDUM that part of his goal when adapting his story into a stage play and later a TV show for the masses was to subvert expectations surrounding the concept of stalking. Rather than play into the often miscalculated and inaccurate way TV shows and movies portray the topic, he wanted to display it for what it is -- a mental illness. 

"Stalking on television tends to be very sexed-up. It has a mystique. It's somebody in a dark alleyway. It's somebody who's really sexy, who's very normal, but then they go strange bit by bit," Gadd explained.

He added, "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."

Watch the trailer for Baby Reindeer in the player below:

All seven episodes of Baby Reindeer are now streaming on Netflix.