- Johnny Depp had a phone call with Instagram influencer Jessica Reed Kraus ahead of his defamation trial against Amber Heard, Kraus said.
- Kraus has gained hundreds of thousands of followers while posting about the trial, often criticizing Heard.
- She told Insider that celebrity friends of Depp checked in with him throughout the trial.
Throughout Johnny Depp's trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Jessica Reed Kraus diligently posted about it on Instagram.
Watching testimony from the courtroom in Fairfax County, Virginia, Kraus posted daily updates with an unabashedly pro-Depp perspective to her hundreds of thousands of followers. Her support for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor has become a boon for her account, @houseinhabit, which now sits at just under 1 million followers. That number roughly doubled during the trial, according to the social media statistics tracker Socialblade.
On Tuesday, Kraus revealed that she had spoken to Depp at the start of the trial. During an hour-and-a-half-long conversation, he had shared his "musings on the death of journalistic integrity" and told her he appreciated her work, Kraus wrote in a Substack post.
"'I don't know you' he says, 'but I know, just by the words you use and the aesthetic in your work, that I trust you,'" Kraus wrote, quoting Depp. "He touches briefly on the Rolling Stone article that shredded his reputation and ruined his trust in media. A betrayal he hasn't yet recovered from." The widely-read 2018 profile, which Depp was interviewed for, covered the actor's legal and financial difficulties.
They also talked about Depp's "tendency to trust the wrong people, and the trouble it's caused him in various periods throughout his life," according to Kraus' account.
Kraus wrote on Substack that she was connected with Depp through "an old friend of Johnny's," who she met through Instagram. Kraus and the friend, who she wouldn't name, later met in person and spent time together during the trial, she told Insider. Sometimes, she got to overhear FaceTime calls between Depp and his friends.
During the trial, Kraus stayed at the same hotel as Depp's legal team. At one point, she posted photos to Instagram of Depp's lawyer Benjamin Chew in the hotel elevator wearing shorts and a Hollywood Vampires T-shirt.
She met Depp, Kraus told Insider, at a cocktail party that was held at the hotel after he testified, and snapped a picture of him. A source close to Depp confirmed the veracity of Kraus' photo.
The defamation trial lasted six weeks, and details about Depp's and Heard's turbulent relationship and Hollywood lifestyles dominated the internet. As Depp and Heard came and went from the courthouse, throngs of Depp's fans lined the street, holding up signs and shouting words of support and encouragement.
Kraus said Depp didn't understand the scale of attention the trial was receiving.
"He's so naive," Kraus said. "He didn't even understand, on those phone calls, how viral every part of the trial was, because he is not really on social media."
Celebrities called Depp to check in with him during the trial, Kraus said
Depp has so far not conducted any interviews with media organizations following the jury verdict in early June, though Chew and another one of his attorneys, Camille Vasquez, have spoken to several outlets. Heard sat down for an interview with NBC News's "Today" show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, where she said she believes more evidence might have swayed the jury to reach a verdict more in her favor.
In their 90-minute conversation at the start of the trial, Kraus and Depp talked about their mutual love of books, discussing Hunter S. Thompson and David Foster Wallace, she wrote in her Substack post. He also told her he uses a typewriter to write and outlined "a revolution that would entail burying our cell phones and laptops to [sever] our obsessive dependency on them," she wrote.
"Contrary to the accusations that will later pin me as a Die hard Depp fan, I don't know much about him, so these revelations, slight as they might be, are news to me," Kraus wrote.
She also said that Depp was "bathed in slow southern charm."
"In conversation he comes across smart, curious, funny and polite," Kraus wrote. "Prone to shifting into character voices exactly as one might expect from the Johnny Depp we know onscreen. But other than that, he is humble, down to earth, and incredibly attentive."
During the trial, Kraus spent time with Depp's "old friend," she told Insider. She said she saw Depp take calls from celebrities who expressed their support as the case progressed.
"I'm hanging out with his friend for six weeks, so I'm listening to FaceTimes between them," Kraus said. "Basically, all these phone calls with celebrities that call in to check in on him, which became a very cool kind of angle because it kind of just made him a regular guy. All these people talking about him like he's just their friend."
After their first conversation, over the phone, Kraus and Depp didn't speak again until she met him in person at the cocktail party following the trial's closing arguments, Kraus said. She wrote that Depp was not "trying to shape the direction of a story, or influence the way in which it's told." He thanked her "for caring enough to carve it with intention," 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.
It isn't the first time people close to Depp have reached out to online personalities who have endorsed his version of events.
Adam Waldman, an attorney 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 critical of Heard. (Waldman made the comments that defamed Heard, a jury found, by acting as Depp's "agent" when she called some of her allegations a "hoax.")
Depp v. Heard isn't the first trial Kraus has covered
Kraus has carved a prominent position for herself 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 in the early hours of the morning to be first in line and secure a seat in the courtroom each day — and provided updates to her followers on social media. She's also offered detailed coverage of the Britney Spears conservatorship battle, the death of Gabby Petito, and drama around the British royal family.
She is also not shy about sharing her perspective, which in the Johnny Depp trial has been unabashedly pro-Depp. In her Instagram posts, she has called Heard a liar who is "undermining sexual and domestic abuse on a global scale" and "making a mockery of the Me Too movement" with a "fake wine bottle rape" story. New York magazine described her as "a chief instigator of the anti-Heard story line."
Jurors ultimately came to similar conclusions as Kraus, delivering a verdict that found Depp and Heard defamed each other but tilted heavily in Depp's favor.
Kraus told Insider that she doesn't consider herself a journalist, but 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 and uncensored and controversial" as they want, away from the "unbridled censorship" of traditional media.
"I just see it as an alternative approach to reporting. Going against traditional journalistic rules — in that I do lean on gossip and anonymous sources and humor and emotion, but the basic quest for truth, paired with a flexible narrative, I think speaks to people in a real way," Kraus told Insider. "My goal in these stories is simple: to humanize the people and the circumstances involved. Offering a more personal connection in coverage."
Her approach is to be as transparent as possible with her followers and take them through her information-gathering process, she said. Kraus said much of the information she shared came from trial testimony and interesting things that came to her through her Instagram DMs. Sometimes, she would hear from people who, based on the photos or texts they included, had direct involvement in the events covered in the trial. Other material was "just unconfirmed gossip."
"Nothing was calculated. The beauty of this whole story is it happened very organically, because I opened up my site," Kraus said. "But the gossip that came in eventually supported all the evidence that came through. So it was from people who know them directly that kind of 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 the verdict came in, she was sitting in a pub with friends.
Later, she attended Depp's concert in London, where he performed alongside Jeff Beck. The invitation had come from one of Depp's friends.
Kraus watched him from the audience, but didn't get a chance to speak with him again.