Tonight the limited series directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Chris Pine debuts on TNT. Ever since the first trailer dropped I have been anxiously awaiting this series. Beyond that the more I began hearing about it I knew I needed to see it. As a fan of mysteries and true crime this Black Dahlia connected show seemed perfect for me. In a seemingly ringing endorsement of these sentiments, one of my favorite podcasts, My Favorite Murder, led a sponsored live event on January 15th at the El Rey Theater that included one of the stars and was released on their podcast network in advance of the series. After having an opportunity to check out some of the show for myself I can promise that it is so much more than just a crime drama and everything that it contains works as a perfectly dramatic and chilling story.
What initially made me want to watch this show was the true crime connection and the emphasis on the Black Dahlia that appeared in the trailers, but what had me the most intrigued, over the course of what I’ve seen so far, was instead the discussions of race and perception. This theme is primarily focused on India Eisley’s character, Fauna. Before I sat down and watched the series a did a bit of checking into interviews that had been done and learned something that shocked me. Elements of I Am The Night were actually inspired by the true story and memoir of the real Fauna Hodel, “One Day She’ll Darken.” Prior to the creation of the series Patty Jenkins had actually sat down with Hodel and learned her story. According to the Los Angeles Times interview with Jenkins she had initially wanted to take on the project, but due to her schedule she had stepped away. When the project was being moved on by other people Hodel had been reaching out to Jenkins about how to work on it and eventually she was convinced to take it over.
In both the true story and the series, Fauna Hodel is raised under the name Patricia Greenway and believes that her father is African American. She is raised within black communities and identifies with them, believing that she is mixed race. Early on in I Am The Night Fauna, at the time living as Patricia, is considered white by white people and often has to specifically say she is not white or tell them that she is part of the black communities she inhabits. In her search to discover more about her birth mother and her identity Pat is pushed into more white spaces and begins to question who she has always believed herself to be. I found the alteration in Fauna’s hair and clothing over the course of this search to be a perfect way of seeing how she was trying to move between these spaces and understand her birth family and their influence on her. Eisley is exceptional as Fauna and when she and Chris Pine’s character, Jay Singletary, interact she is able to balance out his own manic elements. As an odd highlight of his performance any time he laughs I was immediately struck by how it is just so depressingly overwhelmed in how it presents.
As a companion to the series, TNT and Cadence13 will be releasing a podcast on January 30th. This eight part documentary podcast titled Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia will be hosted by Fauna Hodel’s daughters, Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro, as a first person examination of their family history. I Am The Night is not only an interesting watch for true crime and mystery fans, but it also acts as a remarkable examination of racial tensions and perceptions in the 1960’s. Make sure to check out the debut episode tonight on TNT.