The Staircase (miniseries)
|Created by||Antonio Campos|
|Based on||The Staircase|
by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
|Composer||Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||8|
|Running time||59–73 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Discovery Global Streaming & Interactive Entertainment|
|Original network||HBO Max|
|Original release||May 5 –|
June 9, 2022
The Staircase is an American true crime drama streaming television miniseries created by Antonio Campos, based on the 2004 true crime docuseries of the same name created by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade. The series stars Colin Firth as Michael Peterson, a writer convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette), who was found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home. The series premiered on HBO Max on May 5, 2022.
After she is found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home, Michael Peterson, a crime novelist, is accused of bludgeoning his wife Kathleen to death. As the investigation continues, the family is thrown into a tumultuous legal battle. Meanwhile, a French documentary team takes an interest in the story.
Cast and characters
- Colin Firth as Michael Peterson, a novelist and political hopeful living in Durham. His finances and personal life become the focus of the investigation and documentary.
- Toni Collette as Kathleen Peterson, his second wife and mother to Caitlin. She was a high-powered executive and well-liked by her family and community.
- Michael Stuhlbarg as David Rudolf, Michael's lawyer.
- Dane DeHaan as Clayton Peterson, Michael Peterson's oldest son from his first marriage who has his own legal issues from his past.
- Olivia DeJonge as Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen's daughter from her first marriage. She initially supports her stepfather.
- Patrick Schwarzenegger as Todd Peterson, Michael's youngest son from his first marriage.
- Sophie Turner as Margaret Ratliff, Michael's daughter, whom he adopted after her biological parents' deaths.
- Odessa Young as Martha Ratliff, Michael's other adopted daughter.
- Rosemarie DeWitt as Candace Hunt Zamperini, Kathleen's sister.
- Tim Guinee as Bill Peterson, Michael's brother.
- Parker Posey as Freda Black, a Durham county prosecutor.
- Juliette Binoche as Sophie Brunet, the editor of the original documentary.
- Vincent Vermignon as Jean-Xavier, the director of the original documentary.
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Larry Pollard, a lawyer who is neighbors and friends with the Petersons.
- Maria Dizzia as Lori Campbell, Kathleen and Candace's sister.
- Susan Pourfar as Dr. Deborah Radisch
- Justice Leak as Tom Maher
- Robert Crayton as Ron Guerette
- Cullen Moss as Jim Hardin, another Durham County prosecutor on whom Michael had previously written attack columns.
- Cory Scott Allen as Art Holland
- Jason Davis as Fred Atwater, Kathleen's first husband and father to Caitlin.
- Ryan Lewis as Bruce Campbell, Lori's husband.
- Hannah Pniewski as Becky, Clayton's wife.
- Kevin Sizemore as Mark Zamperini, Candace's husband.
- Trini Alvarado as Patricia Sue Peterson, Michael's first wife and mother to Todd and Clayton.
- Daniela Lee as Devon
- Teri Wyble as Sonya Pfeiffer
- Frank Feys as Denis Poncet
- Andre Martin as Yves, Jean-Xavier's boom operator
- Jean-Luc McMurtry as Gaultier, Sophie’s assistant editor
- Monika Gossmann as Agnes
This section needs plot summaries. (May 2022)
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date |
|1||"911"||Antonio Campos||Antonio Campos||May 5, 2022|
|On December 9, 2001 in Durham, North Carolina, author and local politician Michael Peterson calls 911 after supposedly finding his wife, Kathleen, unconscious and bleeding at the bottom of the staircase. Kathleen is declared dead. However, the nature of her injuries causes local law enforcement to believe that Michael might have been involved in her death, leading to him being charged for her murder. Michael gathers his family, which includes Bill, his brother, Clayton and Todd, Michael's sons from his previous marriage, Caitlin Atwater, Kathleen's daughter from her previous marriage, Margaret and Martha Ratliff, Michael's adopted daughters, and Candace Hunt Zamperini and Lori Campbell, Kathleen's sisters. Michael hires defense attorney David Rudolf to represent him in court. The Grand jury indicts him for Kathleen's murder and he is arrested. Meanwhile, prosecutors Freda Black and Jim Hardin meets with Candace and Lori and shows them Kathleen's autopsy report and pictures of gay porn that they found in Michael's office and computer, establishing a motive that Kathleen fought with Michael after finding the pictures, leading to her death. This causes the sisters to turn against Michael, believing his guilt. In 2017, Michael is seen out of prison, and in a relationship with another woman.|
|2||"Chiroptera"||Antonio Campos||Maggie Cohn||May 5, 2022|
|In 2001, French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and producer Denis Poncet began working on their next documentary when they encounter news about Michael's case. Bill is tasked to explain to the family about Michael's bisexuality. The family takes it well, however, Caitlin begins to doubt Michael after realizing he has been lying to the family. Michael is released on bail, and Rudolf gathers a team of crime scene analysts and forensic experts to prove Michael's innocence. The team theorizes that Kathleen fell down the stairs, attempting to get up and call for help, but fell down again, explaining most of her injuries. However, they couldn't come up with a theory to explain the scratches on her face nor her broken thyroid cartilage. Caitlin's belief in Michael's innocence is finally shattered after Black and Hardin shows her Kathleen's autopsy report. Candace, meanwhile, comes up with her own theory that Michael uses the fireplace's blow poke to beat Kathleen to death.|
|3||"The Great Dissembler"||Antonio Campos||Antonio Campos||May 5, 2022|
|In 2002, Jean-Xavier and his team arrives in Durham to begin filming their documentary. Also arriving is Michael's first wife, Patricia Sue Peterson, from Germany. The DA office digs deeper into Michael's case and finds Dennis Rowe, who claims that he slept with Michael multiple times. Hardin, however, dismisses him when he finds out that Rowe also slept with several of his campaign donors. Michael confesses to Bill about his affairs, but claims that Kathleen knew all of it. The DA establishes the blow poke, a gift that Candace gave to each of her siblings, as the murder weapon after the State's Bureau of Investigation was able to replicate the crime using the one Candace gave to them, although they cannot find it anywhere in the Peterson's home. Margaret Blair, Martha and Margaret's maternal aunt, contacts the DA and tells them about her sister's death in Germany 20 years ago where she also died at the bottom of the staircase with Michael finding the body. Elizabeth's initial autopsy in Germany shows that it was caused by an aneurysm. The DA exhumes Elizabeth's body with the sisters' permission which they gave reluctantly, believing that it might help Michael's case. In 2003, Michael's trial finally begins.|
|4||"Common Sense"||Antonio Campos||Emily Kaczmarek & Craig Shilowich||May 12, 2022|
|5||"The Beating Heart"||Leigh Janiak||Craig Shilowich||May 19, 2022|
|6||"Red in Tooth and Claw"||Leigh Janiak||Emily Kaczmarek||May 26, 2022|
|7||"Seek and Ye Shall"||Antonio Campos||Maggie Cohn||June 2, 2022|
|8||"America's Sweetheart or: Time Over Time"||Antonio Campos||Antonio Campos||June 9, 2022|
The series is a passion project for Antonio Campos, who began developing a scripted adaptation of the true crime docuseries The Staircase in 2008. On November 21, 2019, it was announced that Annapurna Television had officially put the project into development and was shopping the project to premium networks and streaming services. Campos was attached to write the series, as well as executive produce alongside Harrison Ford. On September 22, 2020, during an interview about his new film The Devil All the Time with Rian Johnson for Interview Magazine, Campos revealed that HBO Max had landed the project for development. On March 31, 2021, it was announced that HBO Max had given the project a limited series order consisting of 8 episodes, with Campos set as showrunner and director of 6 of the episodes and American Crime Story's Maggie Cohn joining as writer, executive producer, and co-showrunner. In addition, Ford was no longer attached as executive producer. Upon the series order announcement, Campos said:
This has been a project I have been working on in one way or another since 2008. 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 and the incredible Colin Firth to dramatize such a complex true-life story.
Harrison Ford was initially set to star in the lead role of Michael Peterson before being replaced by Colin Firth in March 2021. The following month, Toni Collette joined the cast in a lead role. Rosemarie DeWitt, Juliette Binoche, and Parker Posey were added to the main cast in May 2021, with Sophie Turner, Odessa Young, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Dane DeHaan, Olivia DeJonge, and Michael Stuhlbarg joining the next month. In July 2021, Tim Guinee and Vincent Vermignon joined the cast of the series. In August 2021, Justice Leak was cast in a recurring role.
The series received positive reviews from critics, with praise towards Firth’s performance. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 95% approval rating with an average rating of 7.80/10, based on 56 critic reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "The Staircase doesn't hold many surprises for those already intimate with the original documentary, but this dramatization brings a fresh perspective and texture to the mystery—along with a terrific performance by Colin Firth." Meanwhile, Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 80 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".
Members of the original documentary team criticised the series, with creator Jean-Xavier de Lestrade stating that he felt "very uncomfortable, because I feel that I’ve been betrayed." The original documentary team in particular criticised the series for misrepresenting the relationship between Sophie Brunet and Peterson, for suggesting that the team made editorial choices in order to portray Peterson in a more sympathetic way, and for falsely attributing work done by producer Allyson Luchak to Denis Poncet instead. David Rudolf also raised concerns about the series' factual accuracy, saying that there were "many things in the first five episodes, which I've seen that are inaccurate, misleading, and outright false." As well, Peterson criticised the series, saying that he hadn't been informed that the series was being made, and accused de Lestrade of selling out the story to HBO.
Awards and nominations
|Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials||The Staircase||Pending|||
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