HBO Max has unveiled the first images from their original series ‘The Staircase,’ giving viewers a glimpse into the true crime story based on the death of Kathleen Peterson.
The eight-episode limited series will examine the life of Michael Peterson, played by Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth, and the bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of Peterson’s second wife. In 2001, Kathleen Peterson, played by BAFTA-winning actress Toni Collette, was found dead at the bottom of a dimly-lit staircase in their sprawling North Carolina home.
Peterson’s 2003 and 2011 murder trials spawned much speculation as to why the novelist might have wanted Kathleen dead, garnering media coverage worldwide. Prosecutors theorized that Peterson’s motives included his sexual affairs with other men, as well as the $1.4 million he stood to gain from a life insurance policy in the event of Kathleen’s death. Peterson denied he killed his wife, and perhaps most infamously, his defense team put forth the owl defense, in which his attorneys claimed that an owl attacked Kathleen and caused her to fall down the staircase.
For his role as Michael Peterson, British actor Colin Firth chose not to connect with the real-life man.
“I didn’t communicate with Michael Peterson. I felt the way the script was structured, and just the whole approach of this was its own ecosystem, so to speak,” Firth told Deadline during a CTAM presentation on Tuesday. “These are created characters, but we all know what the source is. We all know that these characters have names of living people, but it’s very carefully calibrated to tell the story in a certain way. I felt that I wanted to keep my inspiration, my motivation, and the sense of the source material, as much as possible contained within the script and the way it was written.”
Firth added that meeting Michael Peterson – who was released from prison in 2017 – could have “skewed” his role during filming.
Written and produced by Antonio Campos (The Devil All The Time, Christine) and Maggie Cohn (American Crime Story), “The Staircase” also stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Juliette Binoche, Dane DeHaan, and Sophie Turner. The series is based on the 2004 French docu-series of the same name, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, that was later picked up for another season by Netflix in 2018.
Shortly before it was announced that Toni Collette would star as Kathleen Peterson, Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content at HBO Max, said audiences can expect the drama.
“It is a thrill to collaborate with Antonio Campos, Maggie Cohn, and Annapurna Television for the exploration of this true-life story that’s rife with dramatic revelations,” said Aubrey. “With the enormously talented Colin Firth at the center of this adaptation, the story of ‘The Staircase’ will continue to captivate audiences with every bizarre twist and turn.”
Although the series premiere date has yet to be released, HBO Max says it will debut this spring.
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