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'The Staircase' Trailer Gives First Glimpse of Owl Theory in HBO Max Limited Series

Watch a full-length trailer for 'The Staircase' ahead of its May 5 on HBO Max.
by Danielle Turchiano — 
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'The Staircase'

HBO Max

HBO Max's full-length trailer for its upcoming true-crime limited series The Staircase starts with Michael and Kathleen Peterson (Colin Firth and Toni Collette, respectively) having a happy, family dinner. But it doesn't take long to get into her death and the criminal case against him that follows, including the internet's favorite owl theory.

The trailer, which you can watch below, also includes footage of how the show will dramatize the documentary of the same title that followed the trial, including sitting down with the real Peterson for an interview.

"The French do have good taste," Michael responds when told there is interest in a documentary on Kathleen's case.

The real Kathleen Peterson died in December 2001, with her husband, Michael, calling 9-1-1 saying she "had an accident." He told investigators she had likely fallen down the stairs after drinking and taking Valium. However, an autopsy showed lacerations that seemed consistent with blunt force trauma (on the back of her head). He quickly became a suspect in her death, and as he stood trial, questions about a family friend's very similar death were raised. He was eventually convicted of murder, but in 2017, he entered an Alford plea to reduce the charge. He was successful in that and sentenced to time served (for the new charge of manslaughter).

The Staircase, which premieres May 5, will explore the Petersons' relationship, as well as Michael's shifting relationship with the adult children in their lives in the aftermath of their mother's death, revelations about his sexuality, and accusations of his involvement in her death. 

"A case like this, keep your family close. You'll need them by your side," lawyer David Rudolf (Michael Stuhlbarg) advises Michael in the trailer.

The show also stars Juliette Binoche, Dane DeHaan, Olivia DeJonge, Rosemarie DeWitt, Tim Guinee, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sophie Turner, Vincent Vermignon, Odessa Young, and Parker Posey. It is created by Antonio Campos and written and executive produced by Campos and Maggie Cohn, who serve as showrunners. Campos also directed six of the episodes, while Leigh Janiak directed the other two. The Staircase is co-produced by Annapurna Television.