TNT's I Am the Night is based on a sordid true Hollywood tale but the prestige miniseries makes a lot of changes to real history for the sake of its dramatic narrative. Created by Patty Jenkins (who directed the first two episodes) and her husband, screenwriter Sam Sheridan (Warrior), I Am the Night stars Chris Pine as reporter Jay Singletary and India Eisley as Fauna Hodel.
The six-episode event is now at its midpoint, and it's starting to handle the actual murder it's built around, the Black Dahlia. Thus far, I Am the Night has told two simultaneous tales that gradually synched up: Jay Singletary is a disgraced Los Angeles-based reporter who lost his career after his story on the scandalous 1949 trial of famed surgeon George Hill Hodel (Jefferson Mays) for the alleged sexual assault of his daughter Tamar was refuted. When I Am the Night begins, it's now 1965 and Jay becomes involved in a new case that echoes the infamous 1947 Black Dahlia murder, of which George Hodel was a suspect.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Fauna Hodel was living in Sparks, NV; she was raised by a black woman named Jimmie Lee Greenwade (Golden Brooks) and grew up believing her name was Patty and that she was mixed-race. However, Fauna always sensed she was somehow different. When she discovers her birth certificate that states her name is Fauna Hodel, her real mother's name is Tamar, and her father is listed as "Negro", Fauna contacts her grandfather George and is invited to visit him in Los Angeles. When Fauna goes to LA, she is plunged into a confusing web of deceit as she tries to determine the truth about her heritage. Jimmie Lee then anonymously contacts Jay and points him back in the direction of investigating George Hodel, which makes Jay and Fauna cross paths as they seem to be seeking the same answers.
But what does the Black Dahlia murder have to do with this story and who were the real Fauna and George Hodel? Let's look closer at the true story of I Am the Night:
- This Page: I Am the Night Is Based On A True Story (Sort Of)
- Page 2: The Real Black Dahlia & What I Am The Night Doesn't Include
I Am the Night Is Based On A True Story (Sort Of)
I Am the Night is built around the Black Dahlia murder but the story of Fauna Hodel is based on the life of the real Fauna and her 2008 memoir, One Day She'll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel. The real Fauna was a friend of Patty Jenkins, who wanted to bring her story to the screen; the director got Chris Pine interested when she told the actor Fauna's story while they were shooting Wonder Woman.
As for George Hill Hodel, he was a real person and a sinister character. Just as I Am the Night portrays him, George was a prominent and well-connected Los Angeles-based physician and gynecologist. He was of Russian descent and he was a child prodigy pianist who possessed a genius-level IQ of 186. He was also an art collector and artist who was enamored with Surrealism and sadomasochism. Hodel lived in Hollywood's famous Sowden House designed by Lloyd Wright and was notorious for throwing decadent parties involving sex and debauchery with many powerful figures of Hollywood's Golden Age.
In I Am the Night, Jay Singletary's exposé on Hodel that ruined his journalism career was about how he ran an illegal abortion clinic, which the miniseries fused with the real-life scandal and 1949 trial where Hodel's teenage daughter, Tamar (Fauna's mother), accused him of statuatory rape and sexual assault. However, Hodel was also one of the suspects of the Black Dahlia murder and, according to his own son, former LA police detective Steve Hodel, the doctor was indeed the Black Dahlia killer.