What Happened to the Real-Life "Martha" From 'Baby Reindeer'?

Richard Gadd’s life inspired his debut Netflix series, ‘Baby Reindeer.’ Now, his real-life stalker isn’t a concern for Richard.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Apr. 25 2024, Published 5:29 p.m. ET

Martha and Donny in 'Baby Reindeer'
Source: Netflix

The world is captivated by Richard Gadd’s story in Baby Reindeer, which made its way to Netflix after he debuted the story as an Edinburgh Fringe show in 2019. As we dive into the lore of Richard’s life, his stalker, his abuser, and his friends and lovers, viewers can’t help but wonder what happened to all of them in real life.

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In the series, Richard reimagines himself as Donny, who’s being stalked by a woman named Martha, portrayed by Jessica Gunning. Jessica’s portrayal shows Martha as a woman deeply damaged by her own obsession in a way that’s both terrifying and pitiful. Of course, we need to know what happened to the real-life Martha and if she’s watching Baby Reindeer at home.

Martha (Jessica Gunning) at the bus stop in 'Baby Reindeer'
Source: Netflix
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Richard can’t exactly say what happened to Martha from ‘Baby Reindeer.’

Without giving too much away, Martha is sentenced to nine months in prison in Baby Reindeer, but we’re not sure if that’s what actually happened to the anonymous person she’s based on. Richard explained to Variety that he had to make the character very different from the actual person “for legal reasons.”

The similarities between the real-life person and the on-screen depiction lie in the emotions. “It’s all emotionally 100 percent true, if that makes sense,” he said. “I mean there’s certain protections, you can’t just copy somebody else’s life and name and put it onto television. And obviously, we were very aware that some characters in it are vulnerable people, so you don’t want to make their lives more difficult.”

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Martha (Jessica Gunning) at the restaurant in 'Baby Reindeer'
Source: Netflix

Even still, he felt that actress Jessica Gunning was perfect even if completely different from his actual stalker. “She’s phenomenal,” he said. “I needed to see someone who was vulnerable one moment, angry the next, volatile but so desperate and sympathetic. I needed to see someone who could capture a full gamut of emotions.

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"When somebody has severe mental health problems, they tend to leap from one emotion to the next, sometimes even quite quickly. And that’s very hard to do from an acting point of view, but Jess seems to have it in her pores, it seems to just fall out of her.”

Martha (Jessica Gunning) in the pub in 'Baby Reindeer'
Source: Netflix
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In an interview with The Times, Richard added that the situation was “resolved.” He also said he “didn’t want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison,” suggesting that she’s not behind bars. But unfortunately, we may never know what exactly happened to her.

Richard Gadd isn’t concerned about the real-life Martha watching the Netflix show.

“I honestly couldn’t speak as to whether she would watch it,” Richard said to GQ. “Her reactions to things varied so much that I almost couldn't predict how she’d react to anything. She was quite an idiosyncratic person. We’ve gone to such great lengths to disguise her to the point that I don’t think she would recognize herself. What’s been borrowed is an emotional truth, not a fact-by-fact profile of someone.”

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Martha (Jessica Gunning) at the bar in 'Baby Reindeer'
Source: Netflix

He did reveal, however, that he actually pressed charges against her. “I do think the institution needs improvement, especially around stalking. I can think of numerous examples where people have complained to the police about a stalker but because maybe they’ve had a previous relationship the police haven’t taken it seriously.

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“They can look for a concrete reason to arrest … but sometimes situations are more nuanced than that. The first thing the police should do is try to preserve the safety of the person who is making the report rather than going through a long, arduous process to work out whether they should believe them or not,” he advocated.

All we can hope is that Richard’s anonymous stalker is happy and healthy and that Richard himself isn’t letting his newfound fame lead to another “baby reindeer” situation.

Baby Reindeer is now available to stream on Netflix.

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