‘Baby Reindeer’ star Richard Gadd says the crew cried during the filming of episode four

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Jessica Gunning, who plays terrifying stalker Martha in Netflix’s ‘Baby Reindeer’, says creator and star Richard Gadd was already on her radar before she auditioned for the show – ever since she saw his one-man show ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“I just thought it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever seen on stage,” she said. “Then I tried to go see the ‘Baby Reindeer’ play, but it was sold out. So I actually bought the play text, which is a bit Martha of me.

Gadd, Gunning, actor Nava Mau, director Weronika Tofilska and editor Peter Oliver were panelists Tuesday night at the DGA Theater Complex for Netflix’s FYC screening and panel for the limited series. The streamer submitted “Baby Reindeer” for consideration to be nominated for best limited series at the Emmys, along with Gadd to be considered for best actor and best writing.

“Baby Reindeer” is an adaptation of Gadd’s play of the same name, which premiered at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and follows a fictionalized version of Gadd named Donny who meets a woman named Martha (Gunning) while working at a pub. What starts with Donny offering her a cup of tea out of sympathy turns into a twisted and complex relationship in which Martha wreaks havoc on Donny’s relationships. Through his experiences with Martha, Donny is forced to confront the trauma of a past sexual assault and come to terms with his sexuality.

Gadd said he went to an “obsessive place” to write the series, which started as his one-man, hour-long show. He wrote the series during the COVID-19 lockdown and described the process as difficult and cathartic.

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“I never wanted to lie,” he said. “I always had to constantly check myself to say, ‘Does this feel true to my whole experience?’ And if it wasn’t, I’d have to bring it back.”

He further explained that filming episode 4, which shows scenes of his sexual assault by a writer he worked with, was difficult for the entire crew.

“We closed the set, but when I looked over you could see the prop guys wiping tears from their eyes as they put the props back where they should be,” Gadd said. “The show was based on such trauma that at times everyone on set felt like it was something huge and heavy. And that’s why I think everyone had so much respect for everything. I was blessed with this amazing team who felt it with me in many ways.

Gunning explained that Gadd is working with We Are Survivors, a non-profit organization that supports male and non-binary survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester. She said that since the series aired, the organization had a 200% increase in the number of people signing up for support, with 60% citing ‘Baby Reindeer’ as the reason they reached out.

She also said that writing Gadd helped her tap into her character Martha, who she describes as a “really complicated character.”

“It’s not an easy, buttoned-up story,” Gunning said. “In the end, not everything comes to a standstill. I find it messy, just like life. Their dynamic is complicated and he is very honest about that. That’s so refreshing to see. The responses show that the public is really hungry for this. Hungry for honest, messy stories.”

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