‘The Staircase’ on HBO Max: Who’s Playing Whom, and Who Else Should Be Cast?

Colin Firth Toni Collette
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI, Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for New York Magazine

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s docuseries The Staircase has kept viewers hooked for more than a decade. Released in installments between 2004 and 2018, it chronicles Michael Peterson’s murder trial and its aftermath. Now it’s HBO Max’s turn to depict the morbid true crime saga.

As we previously reported, Warner Bros’ streaming service has ordered an eight-episode adaptation of the docuseries, written and executive-produced by Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn.

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In the forthcoming (and yet-undated) limited series, Toni Collette will play the late Kathleen Peterson, and Colin Firth will portray her husband, Michael, who was accused of her murder in a trial that made national news.

Now that we’ve streamed the docuseries version of The Staircase—the whole series is yours for the bingeing on Netflix—we have some ideas about who could play other key parts. Scroll down for our dream-casting, if you don’t mind years-old spoilers from the story!

Toni Collette...
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for New York Magazine

Toni Collette

Collette won an Emmy for her lead role in the Showtime comedy United States of Tara and recently returned to the small screen in Unbelievable. On the big screen, you’ve seen her in films like The Sixth Sense, Hereditary, and Knives Out.

Kathleen Peterson
Netflix

…is playing Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen, a Nortel executive and socialite in Durham, North Carolina, was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her and Michael’s mansion on December 9, 2001, according to The Herald-Sun.

Colin Firth
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for BFI

Colin Firth…

Firth gave an Oscar-winning performance in the 2010 biopic The King’s Speech, and he’s also known for his roles in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually, A Single Man, and the Kingsman series.

Michael Peterson
Netflix

…is playing Michael Peterson

Michael is a Marine Corps veteran, novelist, newspaper columnist, and onetime Durham mayoral candidate who was convicted o Kathleen’s murder in 2003. Prosecutors argued he bludgeoned her to death; he claimed she fell. Michael spent years in prison before his conviction was overturned, and in 2017, he pleaded guilty to the killing in an Alford plea and walked free with time served, per WRAL.

Rosemarie DeWitt
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Rosemarie DeWitt…

DeWitt, whose casting was announced by Deadline, starred in the TV shows Little Fires Everywhere, The Last Tycoon, United States of Tara, and Standoff (which co-starred her now-husband, Ron Livingston). On the big screen, she’s known for her roles in the films Rachel Getting Married, Poltergeist, and La La Land.

Candace Zamperini
WTVD

…is playing Candace Zamperini

Zamperini is Kathleen’s sister, who gave impassioned speeches in court throughout the Staircase saga. “You brutally took the life of a woman who provided for you [and] guarded your children. She loved you!” she told Michael at his Alford plea hearing, per the Associated Press. (By the way, Rosemarie DeWitt also played Toni Collette’s sister in United States of Tara.)

Sophie Turner
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sophie Turner

Actress Sophie Turner became a breakout star through her role as Sansa Stark in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. She has made a splash on the big screen as Jean Grey (a.k.a. Phoenix) in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse and 2019’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

margaret ratliff the staircase
Netflix

…is playing Margaret Ratliff

Margaret is one of Michael Peterson’s adopted daughters. She featured heavily in Netflix’s docuseries The Staircase.

Patrick Schwarzenegger
Jason Kempin/Getty Images for CMA

Patrick Schwarzenegger

The actor who is also son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver has appeared in shows such as Scream Queens and The Long Road Home. He’s best known for the film Midnight Sun in which he appeared alongside Bella Thorne. Schwarzenegger recently featured in the Netflix movie Moxie.

the staircase todd peterson
Netflix

…is playing Todd Peterson

Featured in Netflix’s docuseries of the same name, Todd Peterson is the son of Michael Peterson.

Michael Stuhlbarg
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Michael Stuhlbarg

Michael Stuhlbarg has made his mark on TV through roles on shows like Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, The Looming Tower, and most recently Your Honor. He’s also appeared in acclaimed films such as A Serious Man, Trumbo, The Shape of Water, The Post, and Call Me By Your Name.

The Staircase David Rudolf
Netflix

…is playing David Rudolf

David Rudolf is the criminal defense attorney for Michael Peterson.

Lily Tomlin
Presley Ann/Getty Images for the Los Angeles LGBT Center

Lily Tomlin…

Now in her sixth decade in showbiz, Tomlin is one half of the title duo in the Netflix comedy Grace & Frankie, and she’s also known for her roles in the TV shows Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The West Wing and the films Nashville and I ♥ Huckabees.

Patricia Sue Peterson
Netflix

…should play Patricia Sue Peterson

Patricia was Michael’s first wife, and the former couple lived together in Germany when a family friend died under circumstances very similar to Kathleen’s demise.

Mandy Patinkin
Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images

Mandy Patinkin…

Patinkin is a triple threat, known for his work on the stage (Evita, Sunday in the Park with George), on television (Chicago Hope, Criminal Minds, Homeland), and in film (The Princess Bride).

David Rudolf
Netflix

…should play David Rudolf

Rudolf was Peterson’s defense attorney who worked the case off and on for more than a decade. On his website, Rudolf provides an “inside view” of each episode of The Staircase and discusses the theory that an owl attack led to Kathleen’s death.

Jim Rash
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Jim Rash…

Rash isn’t only a scene-stealing actor from the NBC comedy Community; he’s also the Oscar-winning screenwriter of the 2011 film The Descendants.

Duane Deaver
Netflix

…should play Duane Deaver

Deaver was the State Bureau of Investigation agent whose testimony during the Peterson trial misled jurors, according to a judge ruling that the North Carolina Court of Appeals also backed up, per WRAL. He was later fired from his SBI job.

Woody Harrelson
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Woody Harrelson…

Harrelson broke out on the NBC sitcom Cheers, but he’s known more for his film work, including his Academy Award-nominated turns in The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Messenger, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. He also had big roles in the Hunger Games and Now You See Me franchises.

Jim Hardin
Netflix

…should play Jim Hardin

Hardin was the district attorney who prosecuted the Peterson case. He went on to become a Durham County Superior Court judge before his retirement this year.