The fifth episode of HBO Max’s crime series ‘The Staircase’ follows Michael Peterson’s life in prison after getting convicted for the murder of his wife, Kathleen Peterson. He gets beaten up by fellow inmates and goes through a hard time adapting to the systems and norms of the place. Meanwhile, he meets a fellow inmate named Big Ray, who informs him of ways to protect himself.
Big Ray becomes Michael’s close acquaintance, and the former even extends his emotional support when Michael’s appeals get rejected. Naturally, the viewers must be intrigued to know more about Big Ray. Is the character based on someone from real life? Let us share our findings concerning the character!
Is Big Ray Based on a Real Person?
In the show, Big Ray is Michael Peterson’s fellow prisoner. However, Michael has not mentioned or talked about a fellow inmate named Big Ray. Even in ‘Behind the Staircase,’ a non-fiction book written by Michael about his life before and after his trial, there isn’t any mention of Big Ray. However, the character resembles Big Tom, a fellow prisoner of Michael at Nash Correctional Institution. According to the book, Tom was convicted of murder. Like Ray, he was obsessed with weightlifting and helped Michael with the same. Michael regarded Tom as someone who had his back like Ray does in the show.
Tom is the one who introduced the business of stamps to Michael, as Ray does in the show. As per Tom’s instruction, Michael learned about the importance of stamps in the prison and how he can use them in return for protection from the atrocities of his fellow inmates. During his time at Nash, as his book indicates, Michael and Tom shared a companionship, which isn’t very different from the friendship Michael shares with Ray in the show. Even when Michael fails to acquire enough stamps for his protection, Ray shields him.
In the sixth episode, Ray comforts Michael when he loses the second appeal and confronts imprisonment for life. Tom also comforted Michael when the latter faced challenging situations in real life and helped him deal with disappointments. “God knows Big Tom was difficult – a murderer! – but he was funny, and I’d witnessed loyalty deep within,” Michael wrote about Tom in his book. Even though there’s a possibility that the features of Big Ray are based on several real-life fellow prisoners of Michael, the character seemingly resembles most of Big Tom.
Where is Big Ray Now?
Michael’s book doesn’t provide any information about Big Tom’s whereabouts. The lack of prison records indicates that “Big Tom” is an unofficial alias than a name. Michael hasn’t revealed the real name or identity of the person. Even though he wrote that Tom was convicted of murder, the length of his sentence is unknown, which makes it harder to find out whether he is still in Nash Correctional Institution or released. As per the book, Tom’s hometown is Mount Airy, North Carolina.