'I Am the Night': India Eisley perfectly captures the innocence and quick wit of Fauna Hodel
India Eisley plays Fauna Hodel who was born to a white California family in 1951 and was given away for adoption after her grandmother learned that she was fathered by a black man
Most of us are excited about the reunion of ‘Wonder Woman’ star Chris Pine and the DC movie’s director Patty Jenkins for the TNT drama ‘I Am the Night.’
However, India Eisley’s portrayal of Fauna Hodel, the biological granddaughter of George Hodel (Jefferson Mays), the prime suspect in the infamous Black Dahlia murder mystery is not to be ignored. She brings a perfectly balanced mix of naiveté and bravado to the character inspired by the real-life Fauna, whose unbelievable story was told in the book ‘One Day She'll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.’
Fauna, born to a white California family in 1951, was given away for adoption after her grandmother learned that she was fathered by a black man. Due to the racial prejudices and the complicated Hodel family history, her biological teenage mother Tamar gave her away to Jimmie Lee (Golden Brooks), a black restroom attendant in a Nevada casino.
Fauna grew up believing that she is of mixed race, because her mother, believing black people to be far more loving than most people she encountered in the white community, listed the father’s race on her birth certificate as “N***o.”
Understandably, throughout her life, Fauna has felt like she did not belong — be it with the whites or the blacks. She did not feel very much like she was her alcoholic and verbally abusive adoptive mother’s daughter, but they braved many of life’s tragedies together, including, as her book describes, “extreme poverty, alcoholism, starvation, sexual abuse, pregnancy and death.”
“Who is Fauna Hodel?” is a recurring theme in her story, both on the show and in the life of the real Fauna, who believes that her birth mother who set her sailing on this unusual journey is the only one who can give her all the answers.
What she did not anticipate is finding the answers to all the questions she was not prepared to ask. Her journey wading through the dark waters during this self-discovery, the format of story-telling that contrasts her cluelessness with the thrill of heart-stopping discoveries that make 'I Am the Night' worth a watch.
The show delves deep into her discoveries, as well, especially pertaining to her notorious grandfather George, a renowned Hollywood physician who was caught in an incest scandal involving Tamar during the time of Fauna’s birth.
During the course of her investigation, Fauna learns that her birth family isn’t any normal white family from California. Instead, they may be hiding way more than she could have ever anticipated, from being part of perverted sexual activities to carrying out brutal murders.
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George is mostly associated with the murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, whose mutilated body was discovered in an empty lot in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in January 1947. Her body was cut in half at the waist and the greusome nature of her murder earned widespread publicity and led to one of the largest invetigations led by the LA police department.
Tamar was monumental in taking her father to the court, first accusing him of molesting her as a teenager and later claiming that he is also behind the murder of Short. However, he was never formally charged with the crime. Fauna's 2008 memoir, which is the inspiration behind the TNT series, adds some depth to the question of "Who murdered Black Dahlia?" which still keeps many up at night.
Fauna, who is the answer to many questions and the key to much information, died at the age of 66 at her home under hospice care on September 30, 2017, after fighting cancer for over a year which had recently metastasized to other vital organs. In an obituary for Fauna written by her uncle Steve Hodel, it was revealed that she got to reconnect with her birth mother Tamar as an adult in Hawaii in the seventies.
Watch Eisley's version of Fauna on 'I Am the Night' when the TNT show premieres at 9 pm on Monday, January 28.