Woman Who Says She Inspired ‘Baby Reindeer’ Character Denies Stalking


As the surprise success of “Baby Reindeer,” the Netflix drama about a comedian and his stalker, has highlighted the complications that can arise from basing a popular series on real events, a woman who claims to be the inspiration for the stalker character said on Thursday that much of the show’s plot was untrue, calling it a “work of fiction.”

In the four weeks since “Baby Reindeer” debuted, it has been viewed more than 56 million times, according to data released by Netflix. The intense interest in the seven-episode series, which is billed as a true story based on the experience of the comedian Richard Gadd, has also spawned an army of amateur detectives trying to uncover the actual identities of the characters onscreen.

Those efforts have resulted in the online abuse of a British writer and director as well as blowback for Netflix officials, one of whom was questioned about the streamer’s “duty of care” by a British lawmaker this week. Gadd has all but begged internet sleuths to stop digging, writing on social media: “Please don’t speculate on who any of the real life people could be. That’s not the point of the show.”

But in an interview that ran Thursday, Fiona Harvey, who says that the show’s stalker character was modeled after her, provided her side of the story on camera for the first time.

In “Baby Reindeer,” a woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning) approaches an aspiring comedian, Donny (Gadd), while he is working as a bartender and eventually torments him through emails and voice mail messages.

In an hourlong interview on YouTube with the television personality Piers Morgan, Harvey said she had not watched the series — “I think I’d be sick,” she said — but had become aware of her connection to it after reading news media reports and being contacted by journalists. Certain details in the show had convinced some viewers that Harvey was the inspiration for Martha.

“The internet sleuths tracked me down and hounded me and gave me death threats so it wasn’t really a choice,” Harvey, 58, said. “I was forced into this situation.”

In the interview, she criticized Gadd, asserting that he had sought to publicly persecute her. And although she acknowledged that some aspects of the show, like its title, could be traced to her, she disputed other details, including that she had sent Gadd thousands of emails and left him hundreds of hours of voice messages. Harvey said she had sent Gadd a “handful” of emails, along with about 18 tweets.

Harvey told Morgan that she once had up to six email addresses and four phones, which she said she used for different people and purposes.

A spokeswoman for Netflix and representatives for Gadd did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In an interview with British GQ that published in April, Gadd said he believed that his team had “gone to such great lengths to disguise” the real identity of the Martha character that he did not “think she would recognize herself.”

The series depicts Martha assaulting Donny and pleading guilty to stalking him. But in her interview, Harvey denied assaulting him and denied ever having been jailed or convicted of a crime.

Early in the first episode of “Baby Reindeer,” a message comes onscreen that says, “This is a true story.” In the show’s credits, it states: “This program is based on real events: however certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.”

The New York Times has not independently verified Harvey’s account or the events depicted in the series.

Harvey’s interview came after concern that some “Baby Reindeer” viewers had gone too far in trying to unmask the real identities of the characters.

Sean Foley, a British writer and director, became a target of threats and abuse after some viewers speculated that he was the inspiration for a character named Darrien, who drugs, assaults and rapes Gadd’s character.

Foley said on social media that the police were investigating the “defamatory abusive and threatening” posts he faced online. Gadd defended Foley, writing on social media that people he loved and admired were “unfairly getting caught up in speculation.”

In a Parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday, a British lawmaker asked a Netflix official, Benjamin King, how the series had affected the person who inspired the Martha character.

“We did take every reasonable precaution in disguising the real-life identities of the people involved in that story,” King said, while “striking a balance with the veracity and authenticity of Richard’s story.” He said that making it too generic “would undermine the intent behind the show.”

King added that it was difficult to control the actions of viewers and social media users and that Netflix was following the situation very closely. He declined to say whether it had contacted the person who was the inspiration for Martha or offered her support.





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