A few seconds into the trailer for TNT's new limited series I Am the Night you realize that star Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) have teamed up for something really dark. The six-episode series premieres Monday, Jan. 28 and tells the story of Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a young woman who grows up to discover she has an ominous connection to the infamous Black Dahlia murder. Pine plays Jay Singletary, a down-and-out reporter who meets Hodel and helps her to put the bizarre pieces of her life's puzzle together, at great personal cost to them both.
Jenkins, Pine and Eisley, along with fellow cast member Jefferson Mays and screenwriter Sam Sheridan, gathered at the John Snowden house — the alleged site of the Black Dahlia murder — in Los Angeles on Wednesday to discuss the upcoming series, the story of which Jenkins has been holding onto for more than a decade while looking for the right format to tell it in.
"This is a story that I have loved for a long time. Fauna Hodel was someone I really loved as a person," she told a crowd of press, influencers and interpretive dancers surrounding Hodel's former pool. "The story is haunting, shocking and one of the most incredible stories I have ever heard of. When the opportunity came to tell it, and to tell it with this incredible group of people, and Sam just wrote these amazing scripts — of course, I want to do things that I think are cool and great, and this is one of them."
A major topic of discussion during the event was how the team found their way through what is a rather troubling tale. For Jenkins, it was about finding a balance."I firmly believe that all things are all things. In the darkest work, you must find the humor. In the funniest work, you must find the weight that holds it down," she said. "I am always reaching, whatever story I'm telling, I always have some sort of tether to the opposite side. By the way, that's the truth... That's how life works. You never don't get used to where you are and find the entire spectrum of the life experience there."
Pine agreed that humor was also how he dealt with playing a man at the end of his rope for the duration of the series. "Jay is struggling with one hand on a rock like El Capitan, trying not to fall off in every episode," he explained. "But I like making Patty laugh, basically. I always want to go give Jay a big hug because I feel so desperately bad for him, but he's joyful in all of his failure and misery. That makes me giggle and hopefully we can find the humanity in everyone."
It's not all laughs behind the camera though. I Am the Night is Jenkins and Pine's third collaboration and the first outside of the Wonder Woman films. The two maintain their creative chemistry, along with this new troop of actors, thanks to a basic skill that few people are honing in the age of social media: listening.
"No one just shuts up to just listen. ... If you really listen you get to understand the human being sitting next to you," Pine said. "I want to know that I'm being witnessed by the person I'm saying 'Hey man, this is what I've got,' and Patty is really desirous to do that. I can't stress that enough. But listening. Just shut up. Listen. And Patty listens. She listens to the human being. It's super important. It's super, super important."
So, what is the creative team hoping you'll hear if you stop and listen to their new series?
"A lot of what this [is] about is ... our own monsters, our own demons and what are we carrying with us that we can do away with so we can write our own futures," Pine explained. "Jay is desperately trying to do that. ... That made him pretty human to me."
I Am the Night premieres Monday, Jan. 28 at 9/8c on TNT.