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Michael Stuhlbarg on the ‘Eerie’ Challenge of Playing Real-Life Attorney David Rudolf on ‘The Staircase’

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Sasha Urban editorScrolling through Michael Stuhlbarg’s filmography on Wikipedia, you’ll notice that quite a few of his roles are written in blue font, with hyperlinks that lead to other Wikipedia pages.

The real-life characters he’s taken on include former New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal in “The Post,” Golden Age-actor Edward G.

Robinson in “Trumbo,” and even disgraced pharmaceutical executive Richard Sackler on “Dopesick.”But Stuhlbarg says his role as defense attorney David Rudolf on “The Staircase,” HBO Max’s adaptation of the true crime docuseries, was his hardest biographical challenge yet.“I’ve played a lot of people who’ve actually lived, some of whom are still alive and some who are not,” Stuhlbarg told Variety. “I had played a criminal defense lawyer briefly on a ‘Law and Order’ episode once before, but never with the amount of depth or time or as much information to sift through as I had under these circumstances.” The real Rudolf, now 72, had a daunting task ahead of him when he agreed to represent Michael Peterson (who’s played by Colin Firth) after he was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen (Toni Collette) at the bottom of their home’s back staircase.

As captured in the original docuseries, Peterson is a frustrating client — appearing to lie even when telling the truth, and not especially forthcoming about the troubling details of his past.

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