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Who plays Martha on 'Baby Reindeer'? About Jessica Gunning

Jessica Gunning called it the "role of a lifetime."
Baby Reindeer
Jessica Gunning as Martha in "Baby Reindeer."Ed Miller / Netflix

Netflix viewers can't get enough of "Baby Reindeer" and the intriguing yet terrifying true events the series is based on. They're also fascinated by Jessica Gunning's portrayal of Martha, the show's complicated antagonist.

"Baby Reindeer" is based on Scottish comedian Richard Gadd's personal experiences with stalking. Gadd plays Donny Dunn, a struggling comedian who meets a stranger named Martha while he's working as a bartender.

When Martha enters the bar, she looks distraught, so Donny gives her a free beverage. From there, the storyline spirals and Martha develops an unhealthy obsession with Donny.

As "Baby Reindeer" continues to captivate viewers, here's everything you need to know about Gunning and her portrayal of Martha.

Who plays Martha in 'Baby Reindeer?'

Gunning is an English actor who portrays Martha, a middle-aged Scottish woman who claims she's a successful lawyer. Gunning wore makeup to age her up, and adopted a Scottish accent.

After Donny's initial act of kindness, Martha becomes obsessed with him and repeatedly shows up at the bar where he works. She sends him thousands of emails, many of them sexually explicit, and begins to wait for him at the bus stop near his house. Martha even physically attacks the woman Donny is dating.

Jessica Gunning
Gunning at a movie screening in 2014George Pimentel / Getty Images

What other movies and TV shows has Gunning been in?

Gunning most recently appeared in 12 episodes of the Amazon Prime series “The Outlaws” and 12 episodes of the British sitcom “Back.”

She's also appeared in the British film “Summerland,” several mini series (“Isolation Stories,” “MotherFatherSon” and more), several TV shows (“Fortitude,” “Trollied” and more).

Jessica Gunning
Gunning in "The Outlaws" Everett Collection

The actor has guest starred on TV series dating back to 2007, including “Doctor Who,” “Law & Order: UK” and “Mutual Friends.”

What has Gunning said about playing Martha?

Gunning has spoken about her character on multiple occasions while promoting "Baby Reindeer." In each of her interviews, the actor has exhibited a strong sense of empathy for Martha.

“If I ever tried to play the stalker side of Martha, you’d lose her completely because she isn’t a villain. She’s not scary in that sense. I mean, her actions might be received as that, but she never intends it that way. I never, ever saw her like that,” she told Vanity Fair.

After she meets Donny and he's kind to her, Martha mistakenly believes he's interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with her.

“The truth of it, for Martha, is this is the first time in a long time she connects to somebody who compliments her, who’s nice to her, who spends time with her," Gunning explained.

Baby Reindeer
Gunning as Martha in "Baby Reindeer."Ed Miller / Netflix

As Martha's obsession with Donny grows, Donny seems to be both horrified and intrigued by her advances.

“I think they bond over shared trauma,” Gunning said. “I think it’s such an interesting, almost a love story in a way — how these two lost souls find each other at this time of their lives. Both of them are kind of unseen before they see each other.”

As it turns out, Gunning was determined to land the role of Martha after reading a book about Gadd's experience with stalking.

“Usually I kind of leave it up to the universe — ‘If I’m right for this part, I’m right for this part,’” she said. “But I had such a strong response.”

Speaking to the BBC, Gunning said she “really cared about Martha” and described the opportunity to portray her as “the role of a lifetime.”

“I felt really moved by her, actually,” she said.

Still, Gunning was intentional about not asking Gadd too much about his real-life stalker because she didn't want to "muddy" things since it's an “interpretation” rather than an “impersonation.”

Gunning noted that the success of “Baby Reindeer” has surprised her.

“When I watched all the seven episodes, I thought this will be like a cult hit and, over a few weeks word of mouth will spread. So never, ever, did I think that within a week of it being out, it would have this kind of buzz,” she said.

What has Gadd said about Gunning's portrayal of Martha?

While speaking with Variety, Gadd said he was a fan of Gunning's work before she was cast in "Baby Reindeer."

“I’d always seen Jess in shows and thought she was criminally underutilized — always playing the comic relief character. There was an essence of something there that I could tell was bursting to get out. I fought for her against the tide, but then one day she just came in and knocked everyone away,” he said.

Jessica Gunning
Gunning at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.Jeff Vespa / WireImage

In an interview with GQ, Gadd described Gunning as "the best actress around."

"She played it with cuteness, vulnerability, fear, anger, she just captured all the emotions at once. It lived and died on Martha and we couldn’t have been luckier," he said.