Academy Award-nominated Australian actress Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, United States of Tara) will star in the upcoming HBO Max true crime limited series The Staircase as Kathleen Peterson, the deceased wife of historical fiction author Michael Peterson, as reported by Variety. The novelist and former murder convict will be portrayed by Academy Award winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Variety reports.
The Staircase is based on the docuseries of the same name that originated on the French television channel Canal+ and was revived for a fourth season by Netflix in 2018. It will allegedly retell the story of Michael Peterson’s criminal trial, one of the longest in the history of the state of North Carolina: “Peterson… was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen in 2001. He claimed she died after falling down the stairs at their [Forest Hills] home, but police suspected he bludgeoned her to death and staged it to look like an accident,” via Variety. Showrunner duties on HBO Max’s scripted take on The Staircase will be handled by Maggie Cohn (Redacted, American Crime Story) and Antonio Campos (The Sinner, The Devil All The Time). Campos will direct three fourths of the program himself, according to Variety.
True crime as a genre relies on the portrayal of real, often unglamorous, personages by professional actors, although historically, projects of this stripe have taken the form of small-budget made-for-television movies, like Wife, Mother, Murderer: The Marie Hiller Story and Lies of the Heart: The Story of Laurie Kellogg. Collette is no stranger to prestigious projects that require her to channel the essences of real women. In the 2017 miniseries Blue Murder: Killer Cop, Collette played Anne Melocco, the wife of infamous Australian policeman Roger “The Dodger” Rogerson, who is currently serving a life sentence after being implicated in the alleged murder of Chinese-Australian university student Jamie Gao. Collette recently used her powers of transformation to tell the story of another, very different person, that being Welsh barmaid-turned-champion racehorse owner Janet Vokes, in the 2020 feature film Dream Horse.
Collette spoke passionately about how she refuses to allow herself to be restrained by any project’s specific genre, whether that be an inspirational sports movie like Dream Horse or a true crime series like Blue Murder: Killer Cop or The Staircase in her interview with comedian Marc Maron (GLOW, Sword of Truth). “I don’t even think of things in terms of genre anymore. I know people say ‘genre’ [to stand in] for horror itself, but I’m talking [about] any genre. I don’t think about that. I always just think about the truth of the moment. That’s all I have to follow. And sometimes, I don’t have any control over that… Those are the best moments, actually,” she professed, via Maron’s WTF podcast. You can listen to Maron’s entire in-depth conversation with Collette below:
For more information about the criminal case against Michael Peterson, you can watch all thirteen episodes of the original docuseries The Staircase via Netflix.