Can Mr. Darcy be a murderer?
“The Staircase,” based on Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s docuseries of the same name that spanned from 2004 to 2018, stars Colin Firth as Michael Peterson, who was investigated for the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson (Toni Collette).
Warner Bros. ordered an eight-episode treatment of the case, now an HBO Max Original limited series debuting in Spring 2022. The limited series is written and executive-produced by showrunners Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn. Campos also directs six of the eight episodes.
Per the official logline, “The Staircase” explores the life of Michael Peterson, his sprawling North Carolina family, and the suspicious death of his wife.
Kathleen was found in the Peterson’s Durham, North Carolina, mansion at the bottom of the staircase on December 9, 2001. Marine Corps. veteran Michael was a novelist, newspaper columnist, and mayoral candidate when he was convicted of Kathleen’s murder in 2003. Prosecutors argued Michael bludgeoned his wife to death; he claimed she fell after consuming alcohol and Valium. However, an autopsy concluded Kathleen died from multiple injuries, including blows to the back of her head with a blunt object. Michael spent years in prison before his conviction was overturned. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to the killing with a manslaughter charge and walked free with time served.
Rosemarie DeWitt stars as Kathleen’s sister, Candace Zamperini; this will be the second time DeWitt and Collette play siblings, following “The United States of Tara.” Sophie Turner, Dane DeHaan, and Patrick Schwarzenegger portray the Peterson’s children, and Michael Stuhlbarg and Parker Posey star as attorneys.
Juliette Binoche, Olivia DeJonge, Tim Guinee, Vincent Vermignon, and Odessa Young also star.
The original documentary won a Peabody Award in 2005, with later episodic installments updated throughout revelations in the Peterson case. The full docuseries is available to stream on Netflix.
Director Campos’ last feature was the ensemble thriller “The Devil All the Time” for Netflix, while he previously helmed the indies “Christine,” “Simon Killer,” and “Afterschool.”
“The Staircase” is co-produced by Annapurna Television for HBO Max. Previous collaborative TV credits between the production companies includes David Simon and Ed Burns’ 2020 HBO limited series “The Plot Against America.”
“The Staircase” premieres on HBO Max in Spring 2022.