India Eisley shined as Fauna Hodel in the limited series ‘I Am The Night.’ She spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about exploring Fauna’s harrowing past, working with Chris Pine, and more.
I Am The Night is inspired by the incredible true events of Fauna Hodel’s life. The show was based on Fauna’s own memoir, One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel. Fauna was given away at birth and as she begins to investigate the truth about her past, she finds herself in 1950s Hollywood and crossing paths with an infamous gynecologist, Dr. George Hodel. Fauna soon discovers a web of secrets revolving around the most shocking unsolved murder — the Black Dahlia Murder.
India Eisley, 25, played Fauna in the 6-episode limited series from director Patty Jenkins and writer Sam Sheridan. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with India for our Emmy Contenders series about the complex and fascinating role of Fauna. She reflects on Fauna’s resiliency and experiencing the evolution of Fauna’s powerful story. India also discussed forming incredible onscreen dynamics with her co-stars Chris Pine and Golden Brooks.
What was something that really surprised you when you were doing your research about Fauna? What shocked you the most?
India Eisley: I wouldn’t say surprised or shocked but honestly what really struck me was just how resilient she was at such a young age. Beginning at such a young age, her story is quite long and to be able to come to the revelations that she comes to and be able to be a light in the world but also to others, it’s really no easy feat and a testament to just how strong a person can be, namely her, in hardship.
What that was like for you getting into the character of Fauna and then having to say goodbye to that character?
India Eisley: The transitions felt very organic. I know that sounds very cliché to say, but she starts out in a very unaware position and naïve and very young. And she has to grow up in a very short period of time. The way that the scripts were written, and the way that we shot them, everything felt like it unfolded very naturally. It’s a testament to her [Patty] as a director because she really creates such a warm environment that you never feel judged, you always feel very freed up to try anything. But you feel very guided by her at the same time. So, I kind of just went into it and trusted Patty and tried to focus on the emotional side of where Fauna was at in her life during these revelations. Because, obviously, in the show, it’s different to how she found out about certain things later on. But I just tried to focus on the emotional side of it. And at the end of filming, I honestly am just proud to be a part of telling her story and getting her story, and that family’s story out there, because her daughters are such incredible lights in the world as well. I was proud to be a part of the entire telling of it.
I know that Fauna passed away two weeks before filming even started. What was it like for you to be able to have her daughters as part of the experience?
India Eisley: On a personal level, it was really a joy to have them around anyway, because the moment they walk in the room the energy just lifts. They’re just lovely. I wouldn’t so much ask them certain things, but it would just be like I would do something or I’d say a line or something, and it would strike them. They were very much in a grieving process. I’d say something and they’d say, “Mom used to say stuff like that.” It’s just a very tiny insight as to what was going on with her.
The finale was such a great culmination of everything that had been building the entire season. What was your reaction was to how the show ended? Did you think it ended in the right spot for Fauna?
India Eisley: I think it did. If anyone goes to read her book, which I highly suggest because the story is absolutely bonkers, and told from such a matter of fact state of mind that she had. I think as far as the show is concerned, the way that it ended, I can’t really imagine it ending any other way. They’re in these very heavy, heavy circumstances, each of them, and they find each other and they really help each other as friends. And come out of it with a hopeful new beginning.
The relationship and the dynamic between Fauna and Jay were so great. Talk me through that process of what it was like forming that really fascinating and complex bond between Jay and Fauna.
India Eisley: We’d been filming for a few weeks and then Chris came from Scotland because he was doing a project there. He flew in immediately and went to filming. The two of us didn’t really film together until later on in the series, two-ish episodes later. We honestly just went into it. Luckily Chris is, obviously, just a complete professional and just a wonderful person.
You and Golden Brooks portrayed a really interesting and complicated mother-daughter dynamic onscreen. What was it like working with Golden on something so complex?
India Eisley: Golden is just absolutely a phenomenal actress. She’s just a powerhouse, really. Like I just said about Chris, if you’re working with people, as I did with Jefferson Mays for instance, when they’re coming from such a genuine place with their energy, you can’t help but just respond accordingly. And then, you just find the chemistry as you go on. But, Jimmie Lee and Fauna, specifically, because the relationship between the real Jimmie Lee and Fauna was so heavy and so conflicted. They loved each other very much, but the communication and just the interactions with them would be very strained. We thought of it a lot during prep, but we found it quite naturally right off the bat from the moment we walked on the set. It felt very electric working with Golden.
Patty Jenkins is one of the most prolific directors that we have today. What was it like collaborating with her on this project?
India Eisley: I think, just as a director but also a human being, Patty’s really just one of a kind. She has this energy that’s just straightforward and raw and, at the same time, very warm. She’s a comfort to have around and to be around. Being in her presence, you also feel this deep-rooted strength that she has as a director, but also as a woman and as a human being. I can’t really think of anyone else to handle Fauna’s story other than her. Patty’s really brilliant at reading people, and she’s very thorough with watching people, human interaction, and knowing what makes a certain person tick. This story is so character-driven, that I think that Fauna must have met her immediately and been like, “I don’t want anyone else to tell my story.”