I Am the Night‘s star knows how important it was to honestly present Fauna Hodel’s essence.
India Eisley had a huge task ahead of her when she took on the role of Fauna Hodel in TNT’s I Am the Night. Every time I think of Fauna learned about her identity, it blows my mind, and Eisley has to carry it on her for the entire series. She delivers a subtle performance that hides Fauna Hodel’s inner strength.
When we first meet Fauna Hodel, we are lulled into thinking that she is just a sheepish young woman trying to find her place in her small community. When she discovers that her mother has been lying about where she came from, we can almost hear her pulse quicken or her heart race. There is a hunger in Eisley’s large eyes that makes the audience just as curious to find the answers to Fauna’s burning questions. She also capably holds her own against Chris Pine’s Jay Singletary and Connie Nielsen’s Corinna Huntington Hodel.
What Fauna went through is not lost on Eisley–I could hear the respect she had for a woman that she never even met. I Am the Night captures a very specific moment in Fauna’s life, but, ultimately, tells us that was only the beginning. In the hands of lesser producers and writers, I Am the Night would have become a lurid true crime story that glossed over Fauna’s story, but Eisley brings a beautiful humanity to the role that shows how Fauna truly took control of her circumstances.
Do you think everyone underestimates how strong Fauna is?
I hope people, after watching the show, don’t underestimate her. In life, because of all the revelations that she went though—every insane and bonkers turn that she took that unfolded over many years—we had to condense it. Just capturing the resilience that she carries it encapsulated that. I think in her life, people overlooked her. She was quite small and people tend to judge based on appearance. She was a powerhouse.
There were many times that I was watching and Fauna would speak up, and I’d cheer in my living room. You say to Jimmie Lee near the end, “I’m going to find out everything, and I don’t care what it breaks.”
There’s just a lot that you say that I loved throughout this whole series. How much did you know about The Black Dahlia before you did this show?
I was well aware of the case. True crime is a hobby of mine, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. That case was particularly horrific with how they found her. It wasn’t many bodies. It was just one. It’s very heavy. I wasn’t aware of the Fauna tie-in but I saw a lot of specials where George Hodel’s name would come up. It wasn’t until I read Fauna’s book, prepping for the role, where I thought, ‘Hodel sounds really familiar’ and then I realized. I didn’t quite know it was all tied together until that moment.
When everything does come together it is really shocking.
Yes, I was like ‘Oh my God!’ when everything became clear.
Fauna’s daughters, Yvette and Rasha, were heavily involved with the production of the series. What do you think is the best insight that they provided you with?
Honestly, their presence. It sounds hokey or New Age-y, but the energy that they brought when they were around ended up being very imperative for me. It was the energy that Fauna carried. It must have carried with them. Obviously giving me anecdotes of where she was emotionally at discovering all of these things. Who better to help with that than those two?
Jumping back to the scenes with Fauna’s mother, Jimmie Lee, I was riveted with the scenes with you and Golden Brooks. Would you say that their relationship was more positive before the audience joins Fauna’s life?
No. There was always a dramatic strain, but they are very different. With just interacting with each other and communications, it worked. When you love someone it can translate with fights and Jimmie Lee’s drinking and her unfulfilled dreams. I imagine there were even more fights than what we have on the show.
At the end of the series, Fauna has that huge conversation with Tamar on the beach. How do you prepare for a day like that? Getting into that head space had to be difficult considering how much Fauna learns in one conversation?
Sam Sheridan did a brilliant job with the scripts but that scene in particular. Tamar very matter-of-factly tells Fauna where she comes from, and then you take into account that she’s a 16 year old girl. Her driving force, up to that point, was to find her birth family and find out where she came from. There’s a certain level of naïveté that comes with that. So to have that completely blow up in her face within a minute it doesn’t take that much to get into that mindset, especially when hearing the dialogue. It was all very effective. It made my job easier.
I recently talked to Sam about his work on writing the scripts he has such an enthusiasm to talk about this show.
Yes, I love him.
Almost everyone that Fauna encounters in Los Angeles can’t be trusted. Is it odd to live in that space where you have to question everyone around you?
All of the roles I’ve played before Fauna were kind of the crazy person. Or a mentally ill person. It took getting used to, in all honesty. She’s a very contained character and very observant while everyone around her is spiraling out of control. For me, for the first few months, it felt like I wasn’t doing anything. It was really weird. I had to shift into a non-crazy character.
You do have to react to a lot of things, because everyone around you is so nuts.
I kept asking Patty. ‘Patty…Patty, is anything translating? Does it look like I’m falling asleep?’
No, course not! I can assure you that, as a viewer, I never thought you looked like you were falling asleep.
That’s great to hear (laughs).
If you could tell Fauna Hodel one thing, what would it be?
I wouldn’t ask for anything. First of all, I would offer her a really big hug, because she went through absolute hell. I would really make it clear what a strong soul she is. I would thank her for being a wonderful example of what we should all work towards as people.
I Am the Night is streaming now.