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Who plays Martha in ‘Baby Reindeer’? Meet Jessica Gunning

Who plays Martha in 'Baby Reindeer'? Meet Jessica Gunning

And where you've seen her before.

Martha in Baby Reindeer isn't a character you quickly forget. From her eerie stare to chittering laugh, the actress who portrays Richard Gadd's stalker strikes the delicate balance between portraying such an intense, multi-faceted character without totally villanising or dehumanising her.

Based on Richard Gadd's own very real experience of years of stalking following a seemingly inane encounter at a pub he worked at, Baby Reindeer is a fictionalised retelling of the years of fear and torment that followed.

Jessica Gunning, the actress who plays Martha, has previously told the BBC: “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.”

Richard Gadd, whose 2019 one-man stage version of Baby Reindeer originally saw him acting opposite a stool which he moved around on stage to represent Martha, also said that Gunning captured the spirit of his stalker in a way that no one else had.

“What I needed to see was the essence of the person, the kind of energy, and no one did it like Jess. She’s phenomenal,” Gadd told Variety. “I needed to see someone who was vulnerable one moment, angry the next, volatile but so desperate and sympathetic.”

But who is Jessica Gunning and where else have you seen her before? Here's everything to know about the actress who plays Martha in Baby Reindeer.

Who plays Martha in 'Baby Reindeer'? Meet Jessica Gunning

Dave Benett

Who is Jessica Gunning, who plays Martha in Baby Reindeer?

Jessica Gunning is a British television and theatre actress originally from West Yorkshire (despite her exceptionally convincing Scottish accent).

Prior to starring as Martha in Baby Reindeer, Jessica Gunning had a guest appearance on Doctor Who in 2008 before going on to appear in 29 episodes of Law & Order: UK from 2009 through to 2014.

Gunning has a long list of credits beyond this, however, including a breakthrough role in BBC's White Heat (2012) alongside Sam Claflin and Claire Foy, as well as playing a supporting role in the acclaimed comedy-drama Pride which went on to win the Queer Palm Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Pride saw Gunning star alongside the likes of Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott and Dominic West, before she went on to land the role of police constable WPC Kath Morgan in the 2017 hit drama Prime Suspect: Tennison — aka Prime Suspect: 1973.

Though clearly a skilled drama actress, Jessica Gunning has likewise had much success in comedies, having played barmaid Jan in Robert Webb and David Mitchell's Channel 4 series Back. Likewise, Stephen Merchant's The Outlaws is a 2021 crime thriller comedy in which she takes on the role of Diane.

Needless to say, Baby Reindeer has propelled Jessica Gunning onto more screens than ever before, with the series proving to be a global hit – boasting an incredibly rare 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes and making its way into Netflix's global top 10 TV shows less than one week into its release.

Who plays Martha in 'Baby Reindeer'? Meet Jessica Gunning

Jessica Gunning on playing Martha in Baby Reindeer

So what has the actress who plays Martha in Baby Reindeer said about her role?

Speaking to Metro, Gunning addressed some of the struggles she faced with playing such a complicated character. “I always used to roll my eyes slightly when actors said, ‘Oh god, it took me a week to say goodbye’, but because this is obviously based on a true story, and I know Richard now, I wanted to do the part justice so much I think I was constantly with her all the time in my head."

She explained: "Even when there were days I wasn’t in, I was thinking of Martha and the story, just wanting to do the best I could do. In that aspect, I didn’t really let go of her until we finished filming. I couldn’t really put her to bed. When you do a job like this as well, it’s long hours, and you’re there, and you’re in it. With this, emotionally, everyone was really invested… it does dominate your life… it took a while to, kind of, say goodbye in a way. I was really sad when it finished, to say goodbye to her."