12:02pm PT by Kirsten Chuba
'I Am the Night': Patty Jenkins on Her Personal Connection to TNT's Chris Pine Limited Series
The story of George Hodel and the infamous Sowden House has long been part of Hollywood lore, but for Patty Jenkins, the tale has a much more personal connection.
Directed and exec produced by Jenkins and written and created by her husband, Sam Sheridan, the TNT limited series I Am the Night sheds new light on the story of George Hodel, a Los Angeles doctor who was suspected of multiple murders in the 1940s and '50s and is believed to be the Black Dahlia killer. The couple was close friends with Fauna Hodel, George's granddaughter and a central figure in the six-episode entry, until her death in 2017. Her passing prompted them to tell her story.
Ahead of its Thursday premiere screening, Jenkins recalled her sit-down with Fauna that included what she dubbed the "most stunning story I've ever heard in my life."
"I've never met anybody who told me a story like this. And it was told by such a beautiful and wonderful spirit; the combination of those two things ignited me, and I've wanted to tell this story for a long time," she said.
Raised by a black maid in Nevada, Fauna grew up thinking she was of mixed race, only to discover as a teen that she had been adopted. She set out to find her true parents and instead found a trove of family secrets and the dangerous world surrounding her grandfather.
India Eisley stars as Fauna Hodel, and Chris Pine — who reunites with his Wonder Woman director on the series — plays journalist Jay Singletary, who tries to get to the center of the George Hodel case. Pine, who will next reunite with Jenkins on Wonder Woman 1984, also exec produces the drama, which serves as his TV series regular debut.
The Wonder Woman director told reporters on the red carpet that the story's darkness and violence were daunting at first, but "there was this bright and positive person at the center of this story who had somehow overcome it all and became incredibly powerful. That's what made the story worth telling to me."
Sheridan, who serves as showrunner and co-writer, added that after years of knowing Fauna, "there were so many fascinating elements, but particularly she was a woman who had set out to find out who she was and found out the worst things were true. And yet, she had found peace, and that journey was fascinating to me." He also had high praise for his wife and her work bringing the story to the small screen, calling Jenkins "a genius and one of the great filmmakers of our time."
Stars Jefferson Mays, Connie Nielsen, Golden Brooks, Leland Orser and Yul Vazquez also attended the premiere, with many reflecting on feeling very strange, and even physically ill, while they shot scenes for the show inside the actual Sowden House, where George Hodel lived for five years. The location is believed to be where he killed and dissected at least one of his victims.
Inside the screening, held at Harmony Gold Theater, TNT executive vp originals Sarah Aubrey shared how impressed she was with the dedication of all involved to tell such a deep story amid demands for DC Comics blockbuster Wonder Woman 1984. "It's unusual to have three people at the top of their game feel so deeply about something that in between doing these two epic movies, they run back to L.A. to tell this gem of a noir story without taking a breath," she said. "I thought, 'Are they going to have the energy, are they going to be tired, is Patty going to want to do this?' I was so inspired by her every day — the woman cares about the width of the corduroy on an actor's pants. We had real conversations about that."
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot also made an appearance at the premiere to support Jenkins and Pine. I Am the Night premieres Jan. 28 on TNT.