The second addition in TNT’s Suspense Collection is the limited series I Am the Night, directed by Wonder Woman’s director Patty Jenkins and starring Chris Pine.
TNT might need to rethink their marketing strategy because this series was announced last year and has already released their first trailer, but it seems as if no one knows about it. In January 2018, TNT aired the 10-episode adaptation of Caleb Carr’s novel, The Alienist, as part one of their new Suspense Collection that will include other series focused on crime. The upcoming limited series, I Am the Night is the second psychological thriller to be told in the collection.
The story sounds like a shocking cold case specially written by disturbed minds for television, but it is in fact inspired by true events. Based on the life story of Fauna Hodel, a woman born in the mist of a scandal and given away by her paternal grandfather. In her autobiography, “One Day She’ll Darken,” Hodel details her search for her birth parents as she discovers her shocking origins and their connection to the infamous Black Dahlia.
The book synopsis is: “After her father, Dr. George Hodel, a prominent Hollywood physician was acquitted in a sensational incest trial, 16-year-old Tamar gave birth to a blue-eyed, white skinned baby girl. She insisted that the father was “Negro”. Outraged by the audacity of their daughter and the stigma attached to a mixed-race child within their midst, her mother quickly arranged to have the baby permanently given away to Jimmie Lee, a black maid in a Nevada casino.
Overwhelmed by the problems of raising a white-skinned baby in her black community, Jimmie spent the next twenty years struggling to secretly raise Fauna. Together they endured extreme poverty, alcoholism, starvation, sexual abuse, pregnancy and death, hopelessly bound and knotted together by relentless bigotry. Fauna survived this difficult world with a vow to find the one person who knew her beginnings, her biological mother, Tamar, the woman of her dreams. Fauna sets out to discover the truth, only to uncover her family’s notorious secret: her extraordinary grandfather and the murder of the Black Dahlia”
If TNT hadn’t gotten their hands on it, this sounds like it could have been a perfect Lifetime movie.
Dr. George Hill Hodel
The presence of Dr. George Hodel is what will push I Am the Night into a sinister atmosphere. Fauna’s grandfather might have been a monster straight out of Hell. He’s one of the many disturbing doctors in history that inspired the character, Charles Montgomery, on American Horror Story.
A skilled physician among the Hollywood elite who secretly carried out abortions for unmarried actresses and escorts, and was prone to intentionally false diagnose his patients then bill them for unnecessary prescriptions and lab tests. Hodel has been accused of being the Zodiac, The Lipstick Killer, and the murderer of the Black Dahlia, but most people believe him to be only guilty of one. In 1947, 22-year-old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found murdered and mutilated in a vacant lot, and many pointed to Dr. Hodel as the prime suspect, but the investigation led nowhere and is still unsolved to this day.
It wasn’t the first time Hodel had been accused of murder. In 1945, he came under suspicious when his secretary disappeared and was found dead from an apparent overdose. He fled to China to escape accusations, something he did a couple of times. A bug planted in his office somewhat confirmed his role in murdering both woman, or at least strengthened suspicion of his character.
Tamar and Fauna
Before Hodel was accused of other crimes, he was accused of sexually abusing his 14-year-old daughter, Tamar Hodel. The trial made headlines everywhere and painted Tamar to look like an emotionally unstable harlot. Hodel was acquitted, even when several eye witnesses described him forcing sex on his daughter to the court. Not two years later, Tamar was either raped or had a one night stand with another man and became pregnant with Fauna, a name her father picked from an incest-tinged poem.
Fauna was given away to a nurse in Nevada, though her grandfather demanded she keep her surname, and Fauna had no contact with her biological family until she set out to find them years later.
It might be a spoiler for the show but, mother and daughter reconnected in Hawaii sometime in the ’70s and Fauna become a motivational speaker and an author. She helped produce the TNT series before her passing on September 30, 2017 from breast cancer.
I Am the Night
TNT picked up the rights to “One Day She’ll Darken” and adapted it for a six-episode series. Chris Pine, who’s also the executive producer, signed on to star and soon after the now famous director of the smash hit Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins, signed on to direct. Pine will play a hack reporter previously disgraced over his coverage of Dr. George Hodel and is searching for a chance at redemption (publicly). Playing young Fauna is India Eisley, who viewers might recognize as Eve from Underworld: Awakening or as Ashley Juergens from The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Fauna’s birth mother, Tamar, doesn’t seem to have been casted but George Hodel will be played by Jefferson Mays and Golden Brooks has been casted as Fauna’s adopted mother, Jimmie Lee. Jenkins directed the first two episodes and author Sam Sheridan wrote five of the six episodes.
There is great spine-chilling material in I Am the Night , a fascinating plot driven by obsession and a dark secret. A perfect second series to continue TNT’s collection. So far the collection has one fictional series and one factual, and if I Am the Night follows in the footsteps of it’s sister series then it too might get renewed for a second season following a new true crime story. Both seasons of The Alienist are adaptations of Caleb Carr’s books, meaning it’s possible that I Am the Night could adapt other autobiographies linked to cold cases if continued.
TNT might be on to something good.
I Am the Night will premiere in January 2019.