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Richard Gadd & Jessica Gunning Explain the Real-Life Baby Reindeer Inspiration

"It's such an odd story and a weird, traumatic story — but I guess a lot of people are suffering right now," Gadd said about the show's breakout popularity.

By Christopher Rudolph

Baby Reindeer is a hit series that seemingly came out of nowhere, becaming a worldwide streaming hit following its release in April 2024.

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Watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC weeknights at 11:35/10:35c and next day on Peacock

The stars of Baby Reindeer, Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning, stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on June 6 to talk about the popular Netflix limited series, and the inspiration behind it.

"I started doing these autobiographical shows back in about 2016. I've been through some traumatic stuff in my life." Gadd told Jimmy Fallon, explaining that the genesis of the project was his one-man-show Monkey See Monkey Do, based on real events.

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Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Episode 1984

Richard Gadd originally performed Baby Reindeer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

"I went up to Edinburgh Fringe 2019. I did Baby Reindeer about my experiences getting stalked and harassed, and it just took off," Gadd explained. "It was this crazy thing. Netflix came to me. They said, 'Do you want to make it into a series?'" You can watch a short trailer for the Baby Reindeer play here.

When Fallon asked Gadd if he envisioned Baby Reindeer as a series, the actor-comedian admitted he actually did. Gadd said that when he was writing it, he thought, "These characters are kind of interesting, the through line's quite interesting."

"I did have this secret belief or hope that it might actually be one. I don't know," Gadd told Fallon. "As I was writing it as a play, I thought, 'You know what? I think this could have a further life beyond this play.' And I guess, It definitely did, yeah."

Jessica Gunning was a fan of Gadd's work 

Gunning, who plays the stalker, Martha, in the series, was a fan of Gadd's before she was cast in Baby Reindeer. 

"I'd seen Richard do the show Monkey See Monkey Do, which is loosely based on what happens in Episode 4 [of Baby Reindeer], she said. "And I thought, 'He's amazing — and then I tried to get tickets for the Baby Reindeer stage show, but it was sold out."

"So I actually bought the playtext, which is a little bit Martha of me," Gunning joked.

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Fallon asked Gadd if he'd ever imagined it would have this impact, and the actor answered, "No, I didn't, and not so fast, as well."

"I remember thinking, 'Maybe my mom and dad will watch it this weekend' or something," he said, referring to after April the series premiere. "But it literally felt like, overnight, it just exploded."

"It's just had this almost cross-cultural success that I never expected, because it's so singular and it's so idiosyncratic," he added. "It's very London, and it's such an odd story and a weird, traumatic story — but I guess a lot of people are suffering right now."