Let Chris Pine explain the appeal of his character, Jay Singletary, in the TNT mini-series I Am the Night in his own words: “What drew me to [I Am the Night] was playing a character at the highest stakes possible, at 150 miles per hour, for six episodes. No nuance. Just Jay being an absolutely effing maniac,” Pine said in an interview with GQ.
Aside from a free-range Pine, I Am the Night's main draw is that it provides a never-before-told angle on the brutal 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short – more commonly known as the the Black Dahlia Murder — which went unsolved for decades. Most of the story is completely real. Fauna Hodel, played by India Eisley, really was given up for adoption to a Black family and raised believing she was mixed race. Her biological grandfather really was George Hodel (Jefferson Mays), a well-respected gynecologist who socialized with the intelligentsia — and a murderer.
As for Jay Singletary? He's one of the few fictional aspects of I Am the Night. Patti Jenkins, who directed the series, had been interested in telling Fauna's story since she heard it from Hodel herself. But her husband, Sam Sheridan, who was writing the script, was struggling to make it "click." Then, Jenkins met with Chris Pine, and he seemed equally enthusiastic about the concept. With that, Sheridan got the idea for a character who could bridge the story's disparate pieces.
So, who is Jay Singletary, aside from being an "absolutely effing maniac?" Jay has come a long way from his days as an 18-year-old intrepid reporter for the Los Angeles Times. After investigating a man named Dr. George Hodel, his career was suddenly thwarted by the cops and Hodel's well-connected friends ("Some stories will eat you alive," Jay's old boss warns an aspiring reporter).
After his career went haywire, Jay went off to fight in the Korean War, and came back coke-addled and crippled by PTSD. Now, he works as a gossip reporter and photographer. But he has a lead for a ground-breaking story — if only someone would let him report it out. Years after trying (and failing) to bring George Hodel down, Jay has another chance. It will take befriending his granddaughter, Fauna.
In actuality, it would take years before Hodel was suspected as the Black Dahlia killer. In 1949, Fauna Hodel's mother, a then 14-year-old Tamar Hodel, accused her father of sexual assault. While testifying during the trial, Tamar also claimed George was responsible for Elizabeth Short's murder. George was acquitted on the incest charges, but the police had officially added him to the suspect list for Short's murder. In 1950, he fled the U.S. for Asia, where he lived until 1990. Hodel died in 1999, but not before squashing the 1991 movie about Fauna's life.
After George's death, his son Steve, an LAPD cop, put together the pieces. In 2003, his best-selling book, Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, compiled an overwhelming amount of evidence that condemned his own father as the Black Dahlia murderer.
Let's see if Jay Singletary gets to the same conclusion first.