‘Baby Reindeer’ Creator Richard Gadd Says He Went Into a ‘Very Obsessive Place’ to Write Netflix Breakout

The comedian talks about the “constant tightrope” of writing the hit series without “selling out” his personal trauma

Richard Gadd
Richard Gadd attends Netflix's "Baby Reindeer" ATAS screening and Q&A at DGA Theater Complex on May 07, 2024 in Los Angeles. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)

“Baby Reindeer” creator Richard Gadd said he went to “a very obsessive place” to write the breakout Netflix hit, which is based on his own experience of being stalked.

The stalker is portrayed as a mentally unhinged woman named Martha in the series, whose every intense, mercurial demeanor is brilliantly portrayed by Jessica Gunning of Amazon’s “The Outlaws.”

The Scottish comedian said he wrote most of the adaptation of his 2019 one-man play during COVID in an unfurnished flat. “I wrote a lot of it literally surrounded by white walls on a garden deck chair and a laptop on my lap,” he said during a Q&A led by “Fresh Air” host Tanya Mosley at the DGA Theater Complex in Los Angeles Wednesday night.

“It’s amazing I didn’t go insane. It was a crazy, mad thing,” he told the at-capacity crowd of TV academy members and press. “I had to go into a very obsessive place. I did mad hours on it. My best writing was like, 5 a.m. onwards. I would get up at half four and obsessively write almost till I went to bed the next day.”

In deciding what details to keep from his own life, Gadd said, “It was a constant tightrope between what works for a TV show and not selling out on your own story.”

He elaborated, “I had to constantly check myself to be like, ‘Does this feel truthful to me, to my experience all the way through?’ I always wanted to keep the show in a kind of emotional truth. And I was always, always, always quite wary of any sort of deviation.”

Gadd had no idea the show would become the runaway hit it is today.

“I thought it would be kind of like a little cool artistic gem on the Netflix platform. But then overnight, it was crazy. It felt like I woke up one day and everyone was watching it,” said Gadd. He added that it’s “surreal” and “really difficult” to have to relive the events of the series, which include being sexually assaulted by a male friend.

When Mosley asked why the show resonates with so many viewers, Gadd replied, “I think the world has maybe a bit more pain than I think we realize. If you look at the state of the world right now, everything just feels slightly wrong. I’m not sure there’s been a TV show like ‘Baby Reindeer’ that’s kind of captured the dark difficulties and idiosyncrasies of life.”

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Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning at Netflix’s “Baby Reindeer” ATAS screening and Q&A at DGA Theater Complex on May 07, 2024 in Los Angeles (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)

The series has also catapulted Gunning, whose previous credits include the 2014 movie “Pride” and “Law & Order: UK,” to stardom. She had been a fan of Gadd’s since catching his pre-“Baby Reindeer” play, “Monkey See Monkey Do.”

“I just thought it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever seen onstage,” she said of the piece that became the cornerstone for the deeply distressing fourth episode of the Netflix series.

“It is the thing I am most proud of. I’m so proud of Richard as well. If I never work again, at least I can say it was in this,” she said of “Baby Reindeer.”

A man from the audience yelled out, “You’ll work again!” as the crowd laughed at Gunning’s humble understatement of the impact her performance as Martha has had on the show’s success.

“Baby Reindeer” is now streaming on Netflix.

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