‘The Staircase’: Why Michael Peterson, His Kids Won’t Watch the HBO Max Series

Michael Peterson and his children were part of the Netflix docu-series The Staircase, which focused on his wife, Kathleen Peterson’s mysterious death. However, when it comes to HBO Max‘s fictional series The Staircase, the Petersons will not watch. Find out why Michael Peterson his five children won’t watch the series, plus where the Peterson family is today.

Michael Peterson, who won't watch HBO Max's version of 'The Staircase,' in court during his 2011 trial
Michael Peterson | Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

‘The Staircase’ documentary director feels ‘betrayed’ by the HBO series 

Like the Petersons, Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind the celebrated docu-series, isn’t pleased with the HBO Max version. “We gave [Antonio Campos, the director of HBO Max’s The Staircase] all the access he wanted, and I really trusted the man,” de Lestrade told Vanity Fair. “So that’s why today I’m very uncomfortable because I feel that I’ve been betrayed in a way.”

Campos’ adaptation of The Staircase follows Michael’s (Colin Firth) case, but focuses on his relationship with Kathleen (Toni Collette) and his family. There’s also a second storyline about de Lestrade (Vincent Vermignon) and his crew as they film the documentary. De Lestrade is a co-executive producer on the dramatic series but claims Campos made all of the creative decisions regarding the show. 

Michael Peterson doesn’t want to relive Kathleen’s ‘extremely graphic, brutal’ death in the HBO Max series 

In a May 2022 interview with This Morning, Michael admitted “no one in [his] family” has watched the HBO Max series. “With Kathleen … I was there when she died,” Michael explained, adding how he “definitely [does] not want to watch a fictionalized account seeing her die three times.” He added: “I know my children wouldn’t even touch that.” 

Michael said when he found out HBO was planning an “extremely graphic and brutal” retelling of his story, he emailed his kids and warned them about it. “They emailed back, ‘We weren’t even thinking about [watching it],'” said Michael. 

He stands by the belief Kathleen fell, even all these years later, but admits he doesn’t know how she died. “I’m happy not knowing,” he said. 

Where are Michael and Kathleen Peterson’s kids now?

During his interview with This Morning, Michael said, “we’re all fine” regarding his relationship with his children. “They suffered more than I did,” he said of his entire court case. “My children are living this forever.” 

Clayton and Todd Peterson are Michael and his first wife Patricia Peterson’s children. Todd accused Michael of being a “serial killer” in a December 2021 YouTube post and is currently living in North Carolina, according to The Cinemaholic. His brother Clayton resides in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Rebecca and two sons, Dorian and Lucian (via The Cinemaholic). 

Margaret and Martha Ratliff are Michael and Kathleen’s adopted daughters. According to The News & Observer via Esquire, Margaret lives in California and Martha in Colorado. 

According to Esquire, Caitlin Atwater Clark, Kathleen’s biological daughter, lives in northern Virginia. It’s unlikely she has a relationship with Michael, what with the wrongful death lawsuit she filed against him in 2002. 

The fictional portrayal of Netflix’s The Staircase concludes with episode 8 on June 9. Stream every episode of The Staircase on HBO Max

RELATED: ‘The Staircase’: Michael and Kathleen Peterson’s 5 Kids, Who Plays Them in the HBO Series