I Am the Night, Patty Jenkins' new thriller starring Chris Pine, is based on a gut-wrenching memoir of an adopted girl who grew up to find out her the horrific origin of her birth — not only was she a product of incest, but her father was the infamous George Hodel, the No. 1 suspect behind the Black Dahlia murder. Fauna Hodel's story is tough to stomach, and while her memoir, One Day She'll Darken, focuses more on her relationship with her adoptive mother, the show takes a lot of creative license by turning Fauna's tale into a hardboiled thriller set in 1970s Los Angeles. Played by India Eisley, Fauna runs away to L.A., where she meets a host of fictional characters — including Pine's hack reporter Jay Singletary — as she unravels the sordid truth behind her birth.
Despite a narrative with one foot in fact and one foot in fiction, the show makes for a compelling (based on) true crime story that will send you into a Google spiral when you're done. Lucky for you, TV Guide's already sorted through Fauna's story to figure out who's real and who's not.
Obviously, Fauna Hodel is real. Adopted by a black family after her birth, she spent her entire life thinking she was mixed race until she went searching for her birth family. Little did she know at the time that search would lead to Tamar Hodel, her exiled mother who spent her adult life in Hawaii, who would tell her who her father really was: not the black man listed on her birth certificate, but Tamar's own father, George Hodel. Fauna never met George in real life and went on to have two daughters before she died in 2017 from cancer.
Played by Jefferson Mays on the show, George Hodel was a real person who was a notorious doctor in L.A. during the 1940s. Infamous not just for back-alley abortions, Hodel was rumored to be involved in multiple sex scandals, including a highly publicized trial after his daughter, Tamar Hodel, accused him of raping her. He was acquitted of the charge only to be dragged back into the press when his name kept popping up during multiple murder investigations. He's accused of murdering Ruth Spaulding, who was his secretary, and Elizabeth Short, the so-called Black Dahlia. He was also plagued by rumors of financial crimes, and he fled the country in 1950 with his fourth wife and didn't return until the '90s. He died at 91 years old.
Fauna's adoptive mother (played by Golden Brooks) makes the journey from page to screen as well, and it's unsurprising that this is one of the most compelling relationships on the show. Jimmi Lee, a black woman who worked as a maid in Nevada, took Fauna in after Tamar lied on her birth certificate by claiming the father was black. As Fauna grew up, it became very clear that she wasn't mixed race, placing immense strain on her relationship with Jimmie. It's unlikely that Jimmi ever met the Hodels.
Another person pulled from real life, Tamar had an immensely troubled childhood. She was abused by her father, dragged publicly in the press for daring to speak up at 16, and then ostracized by her family after she gave birth and claimed the child was half-black. Tamar fell into a hippie lifestyle and took in several kids and eventually had three sons of her own. She met Fauna in the '70s, and went on to live in Hawaii, but not much else is known about her life.
Jay Singletary is the only main character who is fictional. Pine plays a hack reporter who had a big break on George Hodel's incest trial only to be ridiculed and blacklisted when Hodel was acquitted. In the show, Jay and Fauna's paths cross in Fauna's quest to find her birth parents.
I Am the Night airs Monday nights at 9/8c on TNT through March 4.