Created by Sam Sheridan, executive produced by Patty Jenkins (who also directed some of the episodes) and inspired by true events, the TNT series I Am the Night tells the story of Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a naïve young girl growing up outside of Reno, Nevada with her co-dependent single mother (Golden Brooks), who she learns is hiding a big secret from her. Uncovering that life-changing secret sends teenaged Fauna on a desperate quest to Los Angeles to discover who she is, putting her right into the path of Jay Singletary (Chris Pine), a former Marine turned hack reporter who may have more information on her family than even she wants to know.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress India Eisley talked about what it was like to play a young woman who grew up believing she was mixed race, only to learn that was not the case, feeling like you don’t belong anywhere in the world, getting to meet the real Fauna Hodel’s daughters, her experience working with Patty Jenkins, exploring the unusual dynamic between Fauna and Jay, the powerhouse that is Golden Brooks, whether audiences will feel a sense of closure, at the end of this story, and making the transition into the type of roles she wants to do now, as an adult.
Collider: Really tremendous work in this. I can’t imagine how completely insane and exhausting playing this character must have been.
INDIA EISLEY: Yeah, in the best possible way, but thank you so much for saying that.
While I was often terrified of what might happen to your character, every time she kept digging into things where she probably shouldn’t have, I was also completely heartbroken for her. Did you feel the same way, when you read this?
EISLEY: Well, yeah, just from the synopsis, alone, of her really not belonging anywhere and the fact that this was a real woman. When it’s a true life event for someone, it adds to the weight of it, really. When I auditioned for it, it was only a few scenes, from the very, very beginning of the show, and I hadn’t read any of the other scripts because I think they were still being written. But yeah, it immediately resonated because, on a human level, I think anyone would feel for her, especially being such a young age, too.
Her life was very much something out of a horror story.
EISLEY: Oh, yeah. And the fact that she ended up being such a light, coming out of it. She’s not here now, but I would just commend her for that because that’s no easy feat. If I were in her position, I probably would have gone completely bonkers.
The real Fauna Hodel was also a producer on this, so what was it like to know that she was a part of having her story told?
EISLEY: I did not get to meet her because she passed away shortly before I was cast, but her daughters, Rasha and Yvette, were there on set a lot of the time, and they are just such special souls and such lights of human beings. They walk in the room and they literally light up the room. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true. They’re just such special souls, who are, through and through, just good people. I can’t even imagine the warmth and soulfulness that Fauna must have had. So, knowing that she trusted (executive producer/director) Patty [Jenkins], wholeheartedly, and (executive producer/writer) Sam [Sheridan], and then her daughters being there, was so encouraging. Obviously, there is a level of responsibility that’s just unavoidable, especially for a perfectionist. You’re hard on yourself and like, “I’ve gotta do the best job that I can possibly do.” But it does take a definite load off and lighten it a bit, to know that it had Fauna’s blessing, but also her daughters’ blessings.
When they were on set, did you just have to mentally block that out?
EISLEY: Not really, no. They were so encouraging. If I had any questions, worries or concerns about being accurate, they were always right there. And then, I was texting them when they weren’t there. They’ve become really dear friends. So, it was helpful, but also just wonderful to have them around.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like for someone to grow up believing that they’re a mixed young woman being raised by a single mother in the ‘60s, only to find out that they never were mixed race, at all. How do you get into the headspace of someone who is so sheltered, in that way, only to have her world turned completely upside down?
EISLEY: Obviously, just on a surface level, I would not be able to relate to that. I don’t think many people would. When you’re portraying someone, whether they’re real or fictional, you have to find some kind of hook where it feels real to you because if you don’t believe it yourself, then no one else is going to believe it. The hook that I could find and definitely relate to was the feeling of being outside of everything and feeling like there is nowhere that you belong. That’s a feeling that I’ve had since I was quite young, since I can remember, so I could really tap into that, and then just take it from there.