The Drawer: Colin Firth, Toni Collette in the murder scene and the murders

brake alert: This interview contains spoilers from episode 4 of “The Staircase,” which hit HBO Max on May 12.

Although her death was the catalyst for a highly publicized court case and short series, not much is publicly known about the life and personality of Kathleen Peterson. The Staircase, HBO Max’s true crime series from Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn, seeks to change that by featuring Kathleen as a human being.

“I would love for the show in general to have a more balanced view of their families,” says Toni Collette, who plays Kathleen Peterson on the series. diverse. “Ultimately, for me, I think it has to do with the breakdown of marriage, and you see it as a whole person. You see them all as whole people. People who live in this funny little community in the middle of North Carolina, you can’t imagine the things that happen. But this humble local world Really created by Antonio, I think it’s very beautiful.”

Although Colin Firth, who plays Michael Peterson, had a wealth of footage and information to work from, he chose to rely on the script to build his character. “Obviously it depends on the story we think we are familiar with. But despite that, it is constructive,” he says. “It is a beautiful fiction, and I think I have found it more useful to keep within the parameters of what has been written.”

One of the script’s most ambiguous moments comes in episode four, “Common Sense,” when Firth and Colette portray in shocking detail what might happen if Michael, in fact, kills Kathleen at the bottom of the stairs.

In an interview with diverse Before the series premiere, Collette and Firth open up about filming the murder scene, building trust on the site and why they don’t share whether they believe Michael Peterson is guilty.

Colin, did you reach out to your real-life counterpart Michael Peterson when you thought about taking on this role?

Colin Firth: No, I was not invited nor was I under any pressure to do so. And I found something so well calibrated and built into the text as written, that I didn’t really want to mess with it as my source material. Added to this is the highly complex and thoughtful minds of writers Maggie and Antonio. It was very difficult for me to try to make sense of the eight hours of this maze-like path, which was not chronological. It had all kinds of significance, some of which were very obvious, others that I missed. And I didn’t really think it would help me get outside of that.

Speaking of the source material, there really isn’t much that we know about Kathleen herself. Tony, where did you draw from building this character and giving her a voice we haven’t heard before?

Tony Collette: The documentary sees her as little more than a victim. She is completely pessimistic. So it was the responsibility of creating it from not so much. Before we get started, Antonio emailed me a few home videos. I think the things Margie had videotaped. There were only a few glimpses, and even those small moments were very informative. It was Christmas Day – she loved Christmas. She loved the family. It was very important to her. And there was this moment with her little coffee cup sitting on Michael’s lap, and the energy between them in front of all the other kids told me something very powerful.

And there was another moment where she was kind of alone, trying to do a little slag exercise in their lobby. As soon as she saw the camera, she immediately stopped, feeling somewhat embarrassed. So, really, most of my information, all of my information – yeah, what they say about it in the documentary – but really, it was from the scripts, it was very useful. Antonio has been talking about and very passionate about this story for years. And between what he and Maggie wrote, Kathleen seemed pretty straightforward. Somehow, I had an easy job. I had more freedom than any other actor because Kathleen isn’t here.

You must have put a lot of faith in each other as actors, especially in episode 4, during this particular graphic scene when you act out what would happen if Michael did, in fact, kill Kathleen. What did it look like to approach this scene?

Colette: Most of our huge scenes were at the start of filming in the first six weeks. So it was kind of a quick start. And we didn’t know each other. So it was really a matter of a leap and a matter of confidence. And frankly, Coleen is clearly the most talented person, but he’s just such a decent and beautiful guy. It was very easy to work with him. Honestly, it was a complete dream. Obviously some of the materials are very difficult. I’ve never felt so comfortable. Honestly, I don’t know if I could do that with anyone else. And this particular scene you’re talking about is one of my favorite scenes. I think it is brilliantly written. It captures something very real about the pain of the moment of exposure within the relationship, and you can feel all that can happen from that moment on. It’s just devastating. And I think it was clever and brave of Antonio to keep the camera in the back and let it move by itself, not go in and cover the filth from it. It happened very organically. We’ve trained on it. And we all went, “Yeah, that feels so good.” Then we started shooting at him.

Firth: I suppose I echo a lot of that. Interestingly enough, as actors, this predates a moment like this, as Tony just described it. Is it really possible that a moment many of us might be aware of can escalate that far? not hope. This is a chilling prospect. But the most interesting thing is what leads to it in the story and what follows. And I mean that in a very literal way, because the actual violence was carried out through the doubles stunt. So our job was the rest of it. And it was difficult. I was shocked, in fact, at how deep, real, and heartbreaking Tony’s portrayal of that suffering was. It got me back on my heels. I have read the text. I knew it would be horrible, sharp, and very sad. But I think seeing her portrayed with such emotion and physicality was difficult. It was horrific.

Colette: After the moment with Colin, she was kind of there alone struggling. It is called “stairs”, so there is a lot of pressure. Also, as soon as Michael leaves, blood flows from her. There were these tubes that I was connected to – a kind of blood bank that was pumped through a wig. I really only had one chance. This is a lot of pressure.

Have you worked with an intimate coordinator on this series? I’m especially thinking about the edge scene in Episode 3.

Colette: They hired an intimate coordinator – I didn’t want to talk to her, because, between Antonio and Colin, I felt completely safe. There was a lot of confidence. And I knew the crew, and that was my team. Have you spoken to her, Colin?

Firth: did. It was wonderful. Very understanding and good – humane and sensitive. And I think part of that was figuring out if not being there helped. Then it was respected. It wasn’t about, “I’m here. So I have to use it.”

Colette: If I was with other people where I didn’t feel comfortable, I would probably welcome her there. But I just felt so safe in our world that I didn’t feel the need to have it.

I have to ask you the question at the heart of this. Are you comfortable sharing if you think Michael Peterson killed Kathleen?

Colette: I mean, during filming, we change our view every couple of days, and that’s part of her retelling. That’s part of the reason it’s so compelling. We’ll never really have an answer. I don’t know.

Firth: It’s interesting. Earlier today, someone said she watched him look for clues in my interpretation of what she thought: “There is this expression, or that moment. Does that mean that Colin intentionally thinks so?” I think it would be a shame to answer that, because I think that thing Specializes in making you wonder, and being honest with the fact that we can only speculate. We can only guess. You can gravitate towards any certainty. But I think this plays with different potentials. And I think it would be unfortunate to go into all this trouble for the actor to say, “I think that happened.” Come back to me in a few years when everyone sees it.

The first four episodes of “The Staircase” are now available on HBO Max, with new episodes dropping each week after that.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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