The Staircase

The Staircase: Sophie Turner and Odessa Young on What Influenced Their Performances

Dept. of Chats and Confabs


The Staircase follows the life of novelist, Michael Peterson, and the mysterious death of his wife, Kathleen, at the bottom of the stairs. Despite maintaining his innocence, suspicions of foul play arise, prompting an an exhaustive legal battle against Michael, which piques the interest of French documentarians. Based on the infamous case that swept the world, this HBO drama explores a side to the Peterson household previously unseen.

In this Goggler exclusive, we speak to Sophie Turner and Odessa Young on their production process and whether not having any real answers were detrimental to their performances on The Staircase.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: My question is about production, because it looks like you shot on an incredibly accurate set. How did that help your process? Was that in any way creepy as all hell? 

Odessa Young: Yeah. Walking past the replica staircase every day with all the dried blood, sometimes they had the plywood up and sometimes they had a curtain up, and that was definitely very affecting. It was incredibly detailed. It was truly some of the best set designs I’ve ever witnessed and worked with. It felt so much like a family home. And it did force us to be a family.

We have long days doing pretty involved scenes. Lots of time sitting around the kitchen bench, lots of time sitting around the dinner table, lots of time sitting in the living room. There were just lots of days when the whole family was together. And so we started to have our own little spots that we’d go to. We’d have our own little secrets in the house and the books that we’d take off the bookshelf as soon as we were on a break. It became pretty familiar. It was definitely incredibly useful.

The Staircase

UA: When we were speaking to showrunners Antonio Campos and Maggie Cohn, they were talking about how they’ve gone past asking questions because they’ve looked at this for so long. And I was wondering whether not getting any real answers was a problem for you as performers? 

Sophie Turner: I had my own little journey of acceptance about that. Earlier on in the process of shooting and getting into the story, I was very convinced that I would figure it all out myself, and that I would have the answer, and that I would know exactly what happened. 

UA: You and my wife, by the way, she’s convinced that Michael is innocent.

ST: You see, she and I both know what it feels like to be so, so sure of something. And I had to kind of understand that it’s probably what the family felt. You know what I mean? That’s what every single person involved with this case would have felt. That if they just asked the right questions, if they pushed hard enough, if they looked under that rock, then everything would become apparent, and they would figure it out, and they would have some closure. And unfortunately, that’s just not the way it’s going to work in this situation.

So I had to come to my own realization about that once I realized that the questions I had, had nothing to do with my character, and had nothing to do with this story. It was just for my own kind of fixation on it. And you have to move on.

I think that’s probably also what a lot of people in the story went through. I think that’s what Martha definitely goes through as she realizes that she’s probably not going to get an answer for these things. And that sucks. That’s a really hard thing to grapple with when it is so personal. That’s all part of the journey.

ST: Also we only had to kind of live in that world for so long. We were shooting for like seven months, or something like that. We only had to live it for seven months. And I think during that time we were all going back and forth. What do you think? What do you think? What about this? What about this? And by the end of the shoot, we were just tired, we were exhausted. And you can only imagine what that was like for the family having to live it for decades. And so I think before I started, just like Odessa, I was like, I am going to find out. I’m going to figure it out. Because I cannot rest until I know what actually happened. And then I think once you live it, and you experience it, you just get a sense of resignation. 

You can check out all of our other interviews with the cast and crew here. You can also listen to our review of the series on The Goggler Podcast here. The Staircase is now streaming on HBO GO.

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