- Johnny Depp had a phone call with Instagram influencer Jessica Reed Kraus before his libel trial against Amber Heard, Kraus said.
- Kraus has gained hundreds of thousands of followers by posting about the trial, often criticizing Heard.
- She told Insider that Depp’s famous friends contacted him during the trial.
During Johnny Depp’s trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Jessica Reed Kraus diligently posted about it on Instagram.
Watching the testimony from the courtroom in Fairfax County, Virginia, Kraus posted daily updates with a blatantly pro-Depp perspective for his hundreds of thousands of followers. His endorsement of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor has become a boon to his @houseinhabit account, which now has just under 1 million followers. That number roughly doubled during the trial, according to social media statistics tracker Socialblade.
On Tuesday, Kraus revealed that he had spoken with Depp at the beginning of the trial. During an hour and a half conversation, he shared his “reflections on the death of journalistic integrity” and told him he appreciated his work, Kraus wrote in a Substack post.
“‘I don’t know you,’ he says, ‘but I know, just from the words you use and the aesthetics of your work, that I trust you,'” Kraus wrote, quoting Depp. “He briefly refers to the Rolling Stone article that shattered his reputation and ruined his trust in the media. A betrayal from which he has yet to recover.” The widely read 2018 profile, for which Depp was interviewed, covered the actor’s legal and financial struggles.
They also discussed Depp’s “tendency to trust the wrong people and the problems it has caused him at various periods throughout his life,” according to Kraus’ account.
Kraus wrote on Substack that she was connected to Depp through “an old friend of Johnny’s,” whom she met through Instagram. Kraus and the friend, whom she declined to name, later met in person and spent time together during the trial, she told Insider. Sometimes she listened to FaceTime calls between Depp and his friends.
During the trial, Kraus stayed at the same hotel as Depp’s legal team. At one point, he posted photos on Instagram of Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, in the hotel elevator wearing shorts and a Hollywood Vampires T-shirt.
He met Depp, Kraus told Insider, at a cocktail party held at the hotel after he testified, and took a picture of him. A source close to Depp confirmed the veracity of the photo of Kraus.
The libel trial lasted six weeks, and details about Depp and Heard’s turbulent relationship and Hollywood lifestyle dominated the internet. As Depp and Heard walked to and from the courthouse, crowds of Depp fans lined the street, holding up signs and shouting words of support and encouragement.
Kraus said that Depp did not understand the scale of attention the trial was receiving.
“He’s so naive,” Kraus said. “He didn’t even understand, in those phone calls, how viral each part of the trial was, because he’s not really on social media.”
Celebrities called Depp to talk to him during the trial, Kraus said
So far, Depp has not conducted any interviews with media organizations following the jury’s verdict in early June, although Chew and another of his lawyers, Camille Vasquez, have spoken to multiple outlets. Heard sat down for an interview with NBC News “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie, where she said she believes more evidence could have convinced the jury to reach a more verdict in her favor.
In their 90-minute conversation at the start of the trial, Kraus and Depp discussed their mutual love of books, discussing Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace, he wrote in his Substack post. He also told her that he uses a typewriter to write and outlined “a revolution that would involve burying our cell phones and laptops to [sever] our obsessive dependence on them,” he wrote.
“Contrary to accusations that will later brand me as a Die hard Depp fan, I don’t know much about him, so these revelations, slight as they are, are news to me,” Kraus wrote.
He also said that Depp was “bathed in slow southern charm”.
“In conversation he is intelligent, curious, funny and polite,” Kraus wrote. “Prone to switching into character voices exactly as you’d expect from the Johnny Depp we know on screen. But other than that, he’s humble, down-to-earth and incredibly thoughtful.”
During the trial, Kraus spent time with Depp’s “old friend,” he told Insider. He said that he saw Depp receive calls from celebrities expressing support for him as the case progressed.
“I date his friend for six weeks, so I FaceTime with each other,” Kraus said. “Basically, all these phone calls with celebrities calling to check on him, which became a cool angle because it made him a regular guy. All these people talking about him like he’s just his friend.”
After their first conversation, over the phone, Kraus and Depp did not speak again until she met him in person at the cocktail party after closing arguments in the trial, Kraus said. She wrote that Depp was not “trying to shape the direction of a story, or influence the way it is told”. He thanked her “for caring enough to intentionally carve it out,” unlike media organizations that “have failed him so many times before,” Kraus wrote. Kraus declined to share details of her conversations with Depp beyond what she wrote in her Substack post.
This is not the first time that people close to Depp have contacted online personalities who support their version of events.
Adam Waldman, a lawyer who has represented Depp, testified in a deposition for the trial that he has communicated with “internet journalists” such as ThatUmbrellaGuy, an online personality who has made numerous videos and social media posts criticizing Depp. to Heard. (Waldman made the comments that defamed Heard, he found a jury, by acting as Depp’s “agent” when he called some of his accusations a “hoax.”)
Depp v. Heard is not the first trial covered by Kraus
Kraus has carved out a prominent position for himself on social media, creating elaborate Instagram stories about news events. She attended Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial in New York in November and December, waking up early in the morning to be first in line to secure a seat in the courtroom every day, and provided updates to her followers on the social networks. She also provided detailed coverage of the Britney Spears conservatorship battle, the death of Gabby Petito and the drama surrounding the British royal family.
He’s also not shy about sharing his perspective, which in the Johnny Depp trial has been blatantly pro-Depp. In his Instagram posts, he called Heard a liar who is “undermining sexual and domestic abuse on a global scale” and “mocking the Me Too movement” with a “fake wine bottle rape” story. New York magazine described her as “one of the main instigators of the anti-Heard story”.
Jurors ultimately reached conclusions similar to Kraus’s, returning a verdict that found Depp and Heard defamed each other but leaned heavily in favor of Depp.
Kraus told Insider that she doesn’t consider herself a journalist, just a “writer.” Her Substack account describes her as part of “a movement embracing a new wave of independent journalism” where members of the public can directly support writers who can “be as creative, uncensored and controversial” as they want, far from the “unbridled censorship”. of traditional media.
“I just see it as an alternative approach to journalism. Going against the traditional journalistic rules, in the sense that I rely on gossip and anonymous sources, humor and emotion, but the basic search for truth, along with a flexible narrative , I think it speaks to people in a real way,” Kraus told Insider. “My goal in these stories is simple: humanize the people and circumstances involved. Offer a more personal connection in the coverage.”
His approach is to be as transparent as possible with his followers and walk them through his information-gathering process, he said. Kraus said much of the information he shared came from trial testimony and interesting things that came to him through his Instagram direct messages. Sometimes, she listened to people who, according to the photos or the texts that they included, had a direct participation in the facts covered in the trial. Other material was “unconfirmed gossip only.”
“Nothing was calculated. The beauty of this whole story is that it happened very organically, because I opened my site,” Kraus said. “But the gossip that came through ultimately backed up all the evidence that was presented. So it was from people who know them directly that shaped my whole angle.”
After the trial, both Kraus and Depp ended up in London. For Kraus, it was a pre-planned trip to attend the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. When she got the verdict, she was sitting in a pub with friends.
Later, he attended Depp’s concert in London, where he performed alongside Jeff Beck. The invitation came from one of Depp’s friends.
Kraus watched him from the audience, but didn’t get a chance to speak to him again.