Woman who allegedly inspired stalker character in ‘Baby Reindeer' says show was ‘defamatory'

Fiona Harvey, 58, told Piers Morgan she plans to take legal action against creator Richard Gadd and Netflix

Ed Miller / Netflix

A woman who claims to be the inspiration for the stalker character of Martha in “Baby Reindeer” said the popular Netflix show was “defamatory” and called much of the plot a “work of fiction.”

Comedian Richard Gadd created and starred in the series, which follows his character, Donny, as he navigates being stalked by an older woman named Martha (played by Jessica Gunning). Though Gadd said the story is based on his true personal experiences, he has previously noted that the character Martha is not meant to resemble her real-life counterpart.

But after the show’s popularity boomed, many online began speculating around the real Martha’s identity. The theorizing got so intense that, by late April, Gadd had posted an Instagram story asking fans to stop with their unsubstantiated guesswork.

In the interview with Piers Morgan, uploaded to his YouTube page Thursday, Fiona Harvey, 58, said she was “forced” to come forward about her experience after internet sleuths began harassing her online.  

The show has “taken over enough of my life. I find it quite obscene. I find it horrifying, misogynistic. Some of the death threats have been really terrible online, people phoning me up,” Harvey said. “It’s been absolutely horrendous. I wouldn’t give credence to something like that, and it’s not really my kind of drama.”

Harvey said neither Netflix nor Gadd contacted her about the show, which she also said she has not watched. She said she “absolutely” plans to take legal action against Gadd and Netflix.

A spokesperson for Gadd and Netflix did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday. 

Gadd’s Netflix series was adapted from his one-man show, which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August 2019. It’s described on Gadd’s website as a “chilling personal narrative exploring obsession, delusion, and the aftermath of a chance encounter.”

Gadd previously told GQ that the show went to “such great lengths to disguise [his stalker] to the point that I don’t think she would recognize herself.” 

Watching the show, viewers are met with a message that flashes on screen that reads, “This is a true story.” Later, when the credits roll, the text reads: “This program is based on real events: however certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.”

In her interview, Harvey disputed several of the incidents and details depicted on the show. She said she met Gadd when she visited a London pub for a meal. Unlike in the show, she said, Gadd never offered her a cup of tea.

She said she never caught Gadd looking through her window, heckled his comedy show or attacked his girlfriend. Harvey also said that she did not know where he lived and that she never visited his house, nor did she contact his parents.

“That’s completely untrue. Very, very defamatory to me. Very career damaging, and I wanted to report that completely on this show. I’m not a stalker. I’ve not been to jail,” Harvey said. “This is just complete nonsense.”

Morgan grilled Harvey about the emails, voice messages, tweets, Facebook messages and letters Martha sent Donny on the show. Harvey said she sent Gadd a handful of emails, tweeted him about 18 times and wrote him one letter. She said she never texted him or messaged him on Facebook.

Asked about the show’s title — a moniker that Martha gave Donny — Harvey said she did own a baby reindeer toy as a child. She said her joke mentioning it to Gadd inadvertently gave the show its name.

Harvey could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Morgan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The saga comes amid increased attention surrounding the show and fans’ impulse to “armchair sleuth.” Experts have told NBC News that the desire to sleuth, which has become commonplace on the internet, is a symptom of the internet’s obsession with true crime and its desire to engage in gossip.

Aside from trying to identify real-life Martha, viewers were also trying to pin down Gadd’s real-life inspiration for the character Darrien, a TV comedy writer who sexually assaults Donny. Many online soon began to accuse British actor, writer and director Sean Foley of being real-life Darrien, without real evidence.

Foley shared on X that he had called upon the police to investigate viewers’ “defamatory abusive and threatening” posts against him.

For Harvey, Gadd’s Instagram statement did little to quell the harassment.

“Saying ‘don’t speculate,’ wow, that’s a bit rich now, isn’t it? Fans do speculate,” Harvey told Morgan. “Wednesday, The Daily Mail got in touch with me, so that was all over BBC breaking news Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”

During a panel discussion Tuesday at a screening in Los Angeles, Gadd told the audience that he never viewed his stalker as a villain, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

“I think I struggle with a toxic empathy problem,” Gadd said. “I remember when I was getting stalked, it was relentless and felt like it was everywhere, and I felt like my life wasn’t really functioning. I still had these unbelievable pangs of feeling sorry for her.”

Harvey told Morgan that she was not under the impression that Gadd ever felt sorry for her.

“I think he’s psychotic, and I think that anyone going along, being in that play and doing this to somebody, I find the behavior outrageous,” she said, later adding that she “should never have gone in that bar.”

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