The Staircase and its depiction of Michael Peterson and whether or not he killed Kathleen Peterson has provoked a wide-range of reactions.
There are those that feel that Peterson is innocent and just very, very unlucky, while others insist that he was involved in at least the death of Kathleen Peterson, and maybe even had a hand in the death of Elizabeth Ratliff in 1985, too.
At this point, though, we’re unlikely to ever learn what actually happened on that December night when Kathleen died.
Peterson is now a free man after serving 8 years in jail and then submitting an Alford plea for the reduced charge of manslaughter, which meant that he was sentenced to time already served.
But in the wake of Netflix’s release of “The Staircase,” which over the course of 15 years and 13 episodes tells the full story of Michael Peterson’s trial, Jean Xavier de Lestrade has admitted that he is now concerned about Peterson’s family, which includes his sons Clayton and Todd, Margaret and Martha, who he adopted after Elizabeth Ratliff died, and Kathleen’s daughter Caitlin, as well as his grandson, because of the increased attention they have recieved.
“I was a little bit concerned about Michael Peterson’s family. Especially the daughters and the sons and the grandson, and the attention they would get.”
“I try to keep in contact with them. To know if everything was all right. And everything seems to be OK. But that was my first concern.”
“I didn’t expect so much attention and I hope they won’t get too much attention, too, and they can live their lives as they were before. That was my concern.”
Lestrade has also tried to keep in contact with Michael Peterson since the release of “The Staircase” on Netflix, too, but he is yet to hear back.
“I sent him a message and so far to be really honest he didn’t answer to. I am sure he wants to keep it quiet. I think he actually didn’t expect so much attention and the big exposure.”
“He might be trying to keep a low profile, as much as he can, and to do what he is doing daily. Going to the grocery store, to the gym, and nothing more.”
Lestrade probably feels this tinge of responsibility because of the huge and surprising success of “The Staircase.”
“In a way I am quite surprised. Because it seems that the response has been great. I am a little bit surprised because it is not a new story.”
“It had been shown before. But it is the first time, at least in the US, that it has been shown on a platform that everyone can connect with. Previously it was just shown on the Sundance channel.”
“We got a lot of press and attention, but in terms of audience very few people were able to watch it the first time. Now there is a huge appetite for the series, and for people to watch it, and it is great, it is really great.”
But this then brought him back to the “dramatic” increase in “exposure for all the characters and all the people in the series.”
“We have to be very careful in the way we are all responsible for putting these people in the spotlight. That’s why I said I was quite concerned about Michael Peterson’s family and the way they will get attention from other people.”
“That’s way I feel like I have a responsibility in that. And I feel it very deeply. Of course I am very happy about the success of the series with Netflix. But on the other hand, wow, I didn’t really expect so much success.”
In fact, the exposure has been so startling that Lestrade would now immediately change his approach if he ever worked on a Netflix documentary series again.
“If a was to do a new documentary series again, and if I knew it would be for Netflix, I would tell people of the consequences it could have. Because the exposure is so huge.”
“We have to be very careful on that. I can control what’s on the series, but I can’t control what happens next. And we have a huge responsibility on what we show, and the way we show the characters, the people, I can feel that today, and I was not aware so much about that before.”
But don’t expect that that to include future installments to “The Staircase,” because when I asked if he would do return to the series he responded, “Not sure, not sure because from the beginning the purpose was to show the legal process of the case.”
“So now it is finished, for me, the story of ‘The Staircase’ is finished. But of course I will keep in contact with all of the characters and the people and try to take care of them in the next few months.”
Lestrade will have to undergo a huge change of heart, because later on in our discussion he insisted that he is “very glad it is finished,” before comparing his work on “The Staircase” to that of an “odyssey.”
“In a sense I have been tied to the case and the characters and our story has been like a curse.”
“Throughout the process I kept saying, ‘I have to finish. I have to finish.’ And that was very difficult. Very difficult to be there every time something was happening in court.”
“We did so many trips from Paris to Durham that it became like an odyssey. I hope it will give pleasure to the audience to watch this adventure.”