The Staircase’s Michael Peterson calls series ‘homophobic’

Side by side images of Michael Peterson and Colin Firth in HBO Max's The Staircase. In the image on the left, Peterson wears a purple shirt, red tie and light grey jacket as he in being interviewed on This Morning. In the image on the right, Firth plays Peterson in the HBO Max series The Staircase. The actor is wearing a whit button up shirt, patterned tie and black jacket

Michael Peterson has blasted the HBO Max series The Staircase as “homophobic” for its “fabricated” depiction of his life and bisexuality. 

The true-crime drama series stars Colin Firth as Peterson, a novelist whose wife Kathleen (Toni Collette) was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home in 2001. Peterson became the prime suspect in what became a murder case and was convicted of his wife’s murder in 2003. 

He was granted a new trial after serving eight years in prison, and he submitted an Alford plea in 2017 to the reduced charge of manslaughter. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that the prosecution has enough evidence to likely convict them. 

As a result of the plea, Peterson was sentenced to time served and was released. 

Peterson told Variety that he has “read everything that has been said” about the HBO Max series but “without watching it”. He said that he has a “really good understanding” of The Staircase from what he’s heard from “people, lawyers, friends and journalists”. 

Peterson said he spoke about his bisexuality to Jean-Xavier de Lestrade – the director of the 2004 documentary, also titled The Staircase – and believed “he represented it as I spoke about it”. 

But he thought the HBO Max series’ portrayal of his bisexuality was “homophobic” and “totally false”, from what he’s heard about it. 

“I’ve heard from many people including my attorney that the sex scenes in the HBO series are both wrong and salacious, including a male-male encounter when I went to Blockbuster’s to rent the movie Kathleen and I watched the night she died,” he said. 

He continued: “That’s totally false, and the rest of the gratuitous sex in the series is, from what I’ve also heard, homophobic, as my trial certainly was — and definitely a contributing factor in my conviction.”

Colin Firth wears a dark top and glasses as he plays Michael Peterson in HBO Max's series The Staircase. Toni Collette stands next to him wearing a dark top as well and holding a cup as she portrays Peterson's wife Kathleen. Both actors are looking up at something

Michael Peterson hasn’t watched The Staircase, but he says one episode depicts a “fictional sexual reason” for him to kill Kathleen which he says is “disgustingly homophobic”. (YouTube/HBO Max)

Peterson also took umbrage with The Staircase showrunner Antonio Campos’ decision to decrepit the various theories surrounding Kathleen’s death.

“That completely fabricated episode with me killing Kathleen is grossly homophobic when she finds pornography on my computer late at night, though the prosecution expert testified that the computer was not accessed after 4 pm,” he said. 

Peterson continued: “Creating a false and fictional sexual reason for me to kill her is disgustingly homophobic as well as wrong, as proven in court. 

“How could Campos create a scene that was completely disproved in trial testimony? 

“That shows his total disregard for truth, and his denigration of my bisexuality. 

“He invented a reason for killing Kathleen based on my bisexuality. 

“That also maligns Kathleen, who was a kind and understanding person.”

Peterson also weighed in on Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth being picked to portray him in The Staircase. He told Variety that Firth isn’t his “favourite actor” and would have preferred they got Brad Pitt to play him in the HBO Max series. 

“But to be fair, I haven’t seen his portrayal, but I heard he got [my] voice right and [my] mannerisms,” he said. “But he didn’t capture my energy or my humour.”

He admitted that Firth is a “great actor”, but he couldn’t think of any roles that the actor played that “weren’t full as dirt”. 

The Staircase premiered on HBO Max on 5 May.