The story behind Netflix’s true crime docuseries The Staircase has officially received the drama series treatment thanks to HBO, starring Colin Firth as crime novelist turned convicted murderer Michael Peterson. Exploring the lead up to the suspicious death of Peterson’s wife Kathleen – portrayed by Toni Collette in this instance – as well as the subsequent court trial, tense doesn’t even begin to describe what we’re in for.
“This has been a project I have been working on in one way or another since 2008,” explains co-showrunner Antonio Campos (The Devil All The Time), who has also signed on to direct six of the total eight episodes.
“It’s been a long and winding road, but well worth the wait to be able to find partners like HBO Max, Annapurna, co-showrunner Maggie Cohn (American Crime Story), and the incredible Colin Firth to dramatise such a complex true-life story.”
The details surrounding The Staircase have previously been featured on multiple occasions, predominantly in podcast and print form, but experienced a whole new level of mainstream attention/scrutiny when Netflix acquired the original 2004 documentary series directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade – the latter of whom produced additional episodes as the case unfolded.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief summary courtesy of the Netflix docuseries’ synopsis (spoiler-free):
In December 2001, Michael Peterson called to report that his wife Kathleen had fallen down a set of stairs in their Forest Hills mansion and died. The authorities refused to believe Peterson's story - that Kathleen had fallen while drunk - and concluded instead that he had bludgeoned her to death, most likely with a blow poke - a gift from Kathleen's sister - that was discovered missing from the house. Peterson was soon charged with murder.
During the trial, it's discovered that while Peterson was living in Germany, a family friend died from an intra-cerebral haemorrhage, followed by the body falling downstairs after collapsing, which resulted in similar head injuries to those sustained by Peterson's wife. An investigation by German police and US military authorities concluded that the death was accidental, and Peterson ended up adopting the woman's two daughters (who stand by their father throughout the entire trial).
The prosecution introduce this death into the trial as an incident giving Peterson the idea of how to "fake" Kathleen's accident
And the reveals only get wilder from there…
What’s fascinating about the direction in which HBO’s The Staircase has chosen to take: the drama series fully acknowledges the documentary series, and it appears to be an integral component of the narrative at hand.
“It’s my life on the line and I want to tell my story,” Firth’s Michael Peterson, whose real-life counterpart is currently a free man, can be heard saying in the trailer for HBO’s The Staircase.
“And I promise you, when we are on the other side of this, things will be better. To la familia and to the ones we miss.”
The Staircase is scheduled to premiere its first three episodes on May 5th via HBO, with weekly episodes thereafter – catch it on Aussie streaming platform Binge around the same time, and check out the full-length trailer above.