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Richard Gadd talks about the success and impact of Baby Reindeer (exclusive)

Richard Gadd talks about the success and impact of Baby Reindeer (exclusive)

Richard Gadd Baby Reindeer
Ed Miller/Netflix

The out creator of the acclaimed series opens up about the impact the show has had and if a season 2 is on the horizon.

Netflix mini-series, Baby Reindeer, has not only stood atop the streamer’s most-watched list for the last two weeks, but it has also generated a lot of controversy for its creator, writer, and star Richard Gadd.

The show is a wild ride for sure, and is based — somewhat or mostly — on Gadd’s real-life experiences, including his sexuality. Gadd’s character, Donny Dunn, not only comes under the influence of a notorious male sex abuser in the entertainment industry, but he also falls victim to a relentless stalker. It also explores his relationship with a trans woman. Baby Reindeer dives into how sexual assaults, grooming, and stalking can affect a man's sexuality as well as create overwhelming feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and embarrassment.

As with any show that rockets quickly to worldwide success, and purports to be based on reality, Gadd has been under fire. Gadd’s alleged, real-life stalker Fiona Harvey came forward in a fiery interview with Piers Morgan, claiming that the character in the show, Martha, that allegedly depicts her was based on a lie. The backlash, both for Gadd and Morgan has been fierce.

Now, she says she feels exploited by Morgan and claims he faked his empathy, and Harvey is asking for $1 million dollars for that interview. And while Harvey claimed that she wasn’t a stalker, and never has been, it was revealed yesterday that Harvey reportedly sent almost 300 hundred abusive emails to the U.K. Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer. In those emails, according to the report, she included her now infamous signature made famous by the show, “Sent from my iPhone.”

Gadd also navigated inquiries regarding his professional behavior following a relationship with a transgender actress who auditioned for his show. Clerkenwell Films, the producer of Baby Reindeer, conducted an investigation and eventually absolved the actor of any misconduct stemming from his romantic involvement with Reece Lyons in 2021. Lyons had expressed interest in portraying the character of Gadd’s former girlfriend, Teri.

The Advocate reached out to Gadd via email to discuss how the show has impacted his life, as well as those who have been swept up by the provocative series. Gadd explained the personal consequences of the show, but he did not respond to our questions about Harvey or her allegations. The Advocate has reached out for additional comment.

What follows is an edited version of the conversation.

Richard, huge congratulations on the show. How are you doing, and how are you dealing with all the reactions?

I am really happy but it has been a lot at times. Obviously, the show has generated a lot of conversation and it can feel quite overwhelming but, ultimately, I believe the art of the piece still cuts through above all else.

Every day I get emails and messages from people talking about how the show has impacted them and encouraged them to face certain things in their own life. That to me is more important than anything else and will hopefully be the lasting legacy of the show. Otherwise, I have had messages from artists I have admired my whole life reaching out to say nice things.

Most gratifying is that stalking and abuse charities are significantly up in their referral rates thanks to Baby Reindeer. So it is important to remember the good moments when things get tough.

Did you have any idea that the show would catapult to the top of Netflix and that people would be responding so passionately?

I think I always believed in the show and that it would resonate with people but perhaps not to this extent. It really has had a global impact which is surprising. It has been number one in places like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon — as well as Europe, Australasia, Africa, North and South America.

I suppose I never expected such a niche show to resonate so much across different cultures and continents. I guess the world was struggling way more than I thought.

What was the toughest part of putting it all out there?

I think the toughest part can also be the most rewarding. I get a lot of letters and emails and messages with people sharing similar experiences to mine, and they can be deeply powerful, but also quite difficult to read.

Some have actually reduced me to tears and stayed with me for days afterwards. But it is also deeply moving that people have been encouraged to open up in this way because of the show. Some of the letters have been the first time people have ever shared their experiences with anyone, and so I am glad the show has been able to provide this lifeline for people. Sometimes with this show, the tough and the rewarding are all mixed in together at once.

What has been the most positive aspect of the show's success?

I would say the impact it has had on the charities sector. We Are Survivors — an amazing organization I am lucky enough to be an ambassador for — has seen a 200 percent increase in email referrals since the show came out. Fifty-three percent of those referrals cite Baby Reindeer as their reason for coming forward to seek help. It is nice to have created something which is having such a positive social change.

You really exposed so much of yourself in the series. Do you have any regrets about doing that?

Haha! Ask me again in six months. Seriously though, every time I regret anything, I have to refer to the positive impact the show is having on people worldwide. In exposing myself and going to that level of brutal honesty, I do feel like the show has brought an extraordinary amount of comfort to people around the globe.

What's that old quote by Cesar Cruz? "Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed." Well, I think it has achieved that. Even if I had to disturb myself a little bit to get there.

Will there be a season two? The show certainly ended with a big hint that more was to come?

No, there will not be a Season Two. I am a big advocate of never letting a series outstay its welcome. I feel Baby Reindeer could not have finished in a stronger way — with that double look-up, Donny mirroring Martha — and I do not want to even run the risk of undermining that. So no. I can safely say Baby Reindeer is a one-and-done.

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John Casey

John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.
John Casey is senior editor of The Advocate, writing columns about political, societal, and topical issues with leading newsmakers of the day. The columns include interviews with Sam Altman, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Colman Domingo, Jennifer Coolidge, Kelly Ripa and Mark Counselos, Jamie Lee Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Nancy Pelosi, Tony Fauci, Leon Panetta, John Brennan, and many others. John spent 30 years working as a PR professional on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, the Nobel Prize-winning UN IPCC, and with four of the largest retailers in the U.S.