‘Baby Reindeer’ Star Jessica Gunning Comes Out As “A Big Old Gay” and Covert ‘L Word’ Fan

We are a mere four days into Pride Month and already the actors are coming out! We kicked off with a sexuality clarification from Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe’s daughter, Ava, who by the way looks exactly like Reese Witherspoon. Now we have British actor Jessica Gunning, who’s best known in the U.S. at this moment for playing Martha in the massive Netflix hit Baby Reindeer. She talked on the podcast Reign With Josh Smith about coming out to herself, her family, and now the world, as a “big old gay.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Richard Gadd and Jessica Gunning present the Limited Drama Award onstage during the 2024 BAFTA Television Awards with P&O Cruises at The Royal Festival Hall on May 12, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/BAFTA/Getty Images for BAFTA)

(Photo by John Phillips/BAFTA/Getty Images for BAFTA)

Gunning’s on-screen career began in 2008, when she guested on an episode of Doctor Who. She’s been bopping around doing 1-4 episode runs on a variety of British TV shows ever since, and had a larger role as Angela in Law & Order: UK. She played Siân James (who would become the first woman to represent Swansea East as an MP) in the 2014 queer movie, Pride, and had longer runs on the TV series White Heat, Trollied, Fortitude, Prime Suspect: Tennison and Back. Most recently she starred in BBC comedy The Outlaws as parole officer Diane Pemberley. (The Outlaws airs on Freevee in the U.S.)

On the podcast, Gunning explained that she’d come out to her friends and family in November of 2022, the year she filmed Baby Reindeer. “That was a mega, mega thing for me because for so long — I am surrounded by gays,” she remembers. “Like, all my friends are gay. So, it wasn’t that I was repressing anything. It was just that I didn’t think that I could be… and I still can’t articulate it in the best way — but yeah, I realized I was a big old gay.”

Continuing, she recalled realizing ‘That’s what it’s been, that’s what it is.’ She had a “massive moment” where everything made sense: “For so long I’d thought, ‘I know I’m a bigger woman’ and I thought that maybe it was to do with my size? That I felt a bit like, almost alien, or like I was tagging along.⁠ But as soon as I realised I was like, ‘No, it’s that’ and that was the most liberating thing.”

Gunning felt like it was a secret she’d been keeping from herself, but not “in a hating way.” She wasn’t repressing anything or fearing a negative reaction, she just didn’t think she could be gay. However, she now looks back on her life and realizes that there were many signs along the way:

  • “Going downstairs to watch The L Word — just for the acting obviously. And the storylines.”
  • Not knowing who was “fit” in the Take That poster her teenage friends were gushing over
  • Wearing dungarees and backwards “No Fear” caps as a teenager
  • Crying throughout the entire filming of Pride
  • Doing a play with Cate Blanchett where she got to kiss Cate Blanchett every night on stage — “I should have known then!”

(The play with Cate Blanchett was 2019’s When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, written by Martin Crimp and directed by Katie Mitchell.)

Earlier in the podcast, Gunning talks about growing up and coming into her own in a larger sense. As a teenager she never knew “what was cool” and was always imitating everybody else’s likes and dislikes to fit in (a common experience amongst gay people who don’t know that they are gay!), recalling, “I felt like such a little dweeb there trying to act like i knew what was happening.” She came into her own in Drama School, meeting the people who’d become best ‘mates” for life and accepting and understanding herself.

And now here she is understanding herself even more. HAPPY PRIDE JESSICA GUNNING!

Feature Image Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3212 articles for us.

1 Comment

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!