The Staircase is a gripping true-crime drama that’s set to tackle the infamous trial of novelist Michael Peterson, after his wife Kathleen was found dead in mysterious circumstances.
The eight-part series will follow the true story of Peterson, who was found guilty of murdering his wife Kathleen in 2003 after she was discovered dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Durham, North Carolina mansion.
At the time, Michael maintained that his wife had ‘fallen down the stairs’ after she’d taken Valium and had drunk alcohol, however, a subsequent investigation maintained that Peterson was lying and that he’d bludgeoned her to death with a ‘blow-poke’ – a hollow instrument next to the family fireplace, that had mysteriously gone missing.
Now, executive producers Maggie Cohn and Antonio Campos have created an eight-part series, The Staircase, that is set to premiere on Sky, NOW TV and HBO on May 5.
It’s got a stellar cast, with Oscar and Bafta winner Colin Firth taking the lead as the Peterson; Toni Collette as Kathleen; Sophie Turner as Peterson’s adopted daughter Margaret Ratliff; Patrick Schwarzenegger playing son Todd Peterson; Odessa Young as Martha Ratliff; and Olivia DeJonge is Caitlin Atwater, Peterson’s daughter from a previous marriage.
Supporting roles are taken on by Juliette Binoche, Rosemarie DeWitt as Candance Zamperini, Tim Guinee as Bill Peterson, Vincent Vermignon as Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, and Parker Posey as Freda Black.
Is The Staircase a remake of the Netflix true-crime series?
No, The Staircase is not a direct remake of the Netflix true-crime series, although, it does hold some similarities, as well as featuring it as part of its plot.
The original series was made by a French team and was also called The Staircase – directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade – before being released in 2004.
In 2012-2013, Lestrade returned to film Peterson and his family, covering the following developments in the case, which were released in a two-hour special – which was released on Netflix as a 13-part series in 2018.
During his defence, Peterson claimed that he’d been outside at the pool on their Durham residence at the time of Kathleen’s ‘fall’ and that his wife must have lost her footing after mixing alcohol and Valium, leading to her untimely death.
However, an autopsy found that the wounds on Kathleen’s head were consistent with blows from a blunt instrument, and police at the time said it would have taken her 90 minutes to two hours to die from her wounds, after significant blood loss.
Peterson’s bisexuality also became a focus of the trial, with the prosecution claiming that Kathleen discovered his secret ‘gay life’, which led to an argument resulting in her death. On the other hand, the defence argued that Kathleen accepted Peterson’s bisexuality and that the couple were happy in their marriage.
The Staircase is an eight-parter that follows the dramatisation of the trial.
The show depicts the death of Kathleen, who was discovered in a pool of her own blood at the bottom of the family mansion’s stairs, as well as the three-month trial that led to Peterson’s sentence of life in prison.
However, a new trial was granted when it was revealed that one of the key witnesses for the prosecution had lied under oath.
Ultimately, Peterson served 89 months in prison but was allowed to walk free in 2017 after entering a plea deal that allowed him to maintain his innocence but acknowledge that the prosecutors have enough evidence for the conviction, with the official verdict labelling him guilty (known as an Alford plea).
When is The Staircase released and how can I watch it?
The Staircase will be released on NOW and Sky on May 5, and it will be available to watch in all Sky markets, including the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria & Switzerland.
It will also be available to view in the United States on HBO Max.