jessica gunning baby reindeer

Jessica Gunning has spoken about how ‘tough’ it was playing Martha in Baby Reindeer

‘I never saw her as a villain, I always saw her as multifaceted and complicated’

If you’ve seen Baby Reindeer, you’ll know that the series touches on a lot of heavy content. Written and produced by Richard Gadd, the episodes follow Martha as she grows obsessed with Donny, the character Richard plays as himself in the show. But after becoming the number one recommended watch on Netflix, Jessica Gunning, playing Martha in Baby Reindeer, has spoken about what it was really like playing Richard’s stalker.

At first glance it may be easy for viewers to dislike or even hate Martha for her behaviours towards Donny in the series. But after learning more about her and her life, there’s a notable shift when it’s learnt that the ex-lawyer has previous convictions and is fighting a mental illness herself.

Talking to the BBC, Jessica said that she “really cared about Martha” after reading about the character for the first time, adding that rather than feeling aversion towards her, she was instead intrigued by her different personas.

Explaining that she never met or researched Richard’s real life stalker, Jessica chose not to “muddy” the character and explained the importance of “interpretation” rather than “impersonation” when playing Martha, who was of course based on a person in real life.

jessica gunning baby reindeer

via Netflix

The actress also said it was important not to see Martha as a “villain”, instead explaining that she actually felt a sense of commiseration towards her. She said: “I really cared about Martha, you know. As soon as I read episode one I was drawn in by her.

“I never saw her as a villain. I don’t think you can do if you’re playing that kind of part. I always saw her as multifaceted and complicated.”

Instead, she actually felt a lot of sympathy was felt towards Martha, stemming from how the 42-year-old was seemingly pretending to live the life she should have had before being struck off from practicing her law degree.

Jessica explained Martha’s choices as being an attempt to live “the life she should have had” while instead existing in a lonely, solitary world in real life. It was therefore important for her not to play her as “mad” or “crazy” in order to establish and maintain the nuanced relationship between the two characters.

As the series follows the grooming, sexual assault and rape of Donny, Jessica expressed how Richard’s vulnerability while telling his story impressed her, including how she had a “feeling a responsibility” to her co-star.

During filming, Jessica often “checked in” with Richard, ensuring he was “doing ok, especially during the filming of episode four – that was a really tough time”.

Despite her hefty acting career of 17 years, she spoke of being impressed by the writer and producer’s courage to tell his story, which has since been received incredibly well by viewers who say the series made them “feel seen”.

She said: “Richard was so amazingly brave and vulnerable and open to reliving all of that. I was so impressed with him.”

And after gaining immense popularity despite being released just over 10 days ago, Jessica spoke of how she and Richard are both stunned by the show’s immediate success. Jessica said: “I think both me and Richard are just ‘whoa’. Especially Richard. I’m just so thrilled for him because he’s been so brave and the response has just been incredible.”

She spoke of how she knew the show would do well after reading the script the first time and how she was emotionally affected by her character while playing the part.

“It’s been so exciting. I’m so pleased that so many people are talking about it. I remember the day I got the script through for my first audition and I read all of the episodes in one go and I was just like, ‘I think this might be the best thing I’ve ever read.’

I just feel genuinely so proud to be part of it and I’m so proud that so many people are having such a response to it. But I feel Martha is kind of the role of a lifetime. I felt really moved by her, actually.

“I always knew in my core that it was going to be a great show.”

After hearing of the effect of the show on viewers who contacted Richard Gadd about his writing, Jessica expressed feeling proud of the production and of its positive impact, saying “You can’t really ask for anything better than that can you?”.

Baby Reindeer is available on Netflix now. For more like this explainer on Jessica Gunning in Baby Reindeer and all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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Featured image via Netflix