It’s starting to sound like nobody involved in the events depicted in HBO’s new fictionalized crime series The Staircase is especially happy about how the series has turned out. Specifically, Michael Peterson—whose trial for the murder of his wife Kathleen rests at both the heart of the HBO show, and the docuseries of the same name from which it takes inspiration—has issued several blunt statements about the show, including his anger at documentarian Jean-Xavier de Lestrade for “pimping out” his life story to showrunner Antonio Campos.
“We feel that Jean pimped us out—sold OUR story to Campos for money,” Peterson—who was convicted of Kathleen’s murder in 2003, and released from prison after taking an Alford plea that dropped the charges against him down to manslaughter in 2017—told Variety via emails this week. “What word other than pimped describes what he did?”
De Lestrade has previously also voiced his unhappiness with Campos’ depiction of both the Peterson family, as well as his own involvement in the case, which he meticulously filmed for years as part of the series that eventually became The Staircase. Among other things, he’s noted that Campos had told him that he would have made a show about the Petersons regardless, and, by his own account, signed on as a producer in part in hopes of shaping the narrative of the fictionalized series.
Peterson has a harsher take:
He released his archive to Campos who then created a fictional account of events, most of which trashed me (which I really don’t care about) and my children—which I really do care about. There are egregious fabrications and distortions of the truth in the HBO series, well beyond what may be considered “artistic” license.
Campos’ Staircase stars Colin Firth as Peterson, with Toni Collette as Kathleen. The series has drawn moderately strong reviews for its depiction of the case, with Firth and Collette both coming in for strong reviews. The limited series aired its final installment tonight.