What Happened To Fauna Hodel After The I Am The Night Finale?

Photo: Courtesy of TNT.
The show I Am the Night ends in daylight. The secrets of Fauna Hodel’s (India Eisley) existence are officially out: She is not half-Black, as she'd always been told. Her biological mother had been sexually abused by her murderous grandfather. Exposure doesn’t make these facts any more palatable — but it makes healing possible.
In the voiceover that carries I Am the Night to its hopeful conclusion, Fauna reflects on her recent journey with placid wisdom beyond her 16 years. Most 16-year-olds would be lashing out to such stark revelations — lurking in malls with badly behaved boys, retreating into a cocoon of silence. Not Fauna. Because after brushing with the devil himself, who goes by the name of George Hodel (Jefferson Mays) in the show, Fauna’s no longer afraid. Instead, she’s realistic about how to survive in a world full of billions of people, all of whom are capable of evil.
“We keep struggling, making due, and going on, ‘cause that’s all there is,” she says in a letter to Jay (Chris Pine), the dogged reporter who tries to save Fauna in the finale. “The devil is something we all carry in our hearts. We have to make peace with them, Jay. We have to find another way.”
If I Am the Night is a story of one woman’s voyage for self-discovery, then the finale concludes at the moment that Fauna discovers who she is. For years, Fauna had been plagued by nagging sensations that something was wrong in her life— that a man was following her, that she didn't fit in with her adoptive mother (Golden Brooks). Others chalked these suspicions up to paranoia. But Fauna’s instincts were vindicated: She was being stalked; she was white. “When I look in the mirror, Jay, I see something I don’t quite recognize. But something I chose,” she says, finishing out the series. She fought for this degree of self- knowledge. It's uncomfortable, but it's hers.
So the six-part fictional rendering of Fauna Hodel’s story in I Am the Night concludes optimistically, but the real Fauna’s story was hardly over. Showrunner Patti Jenkins and her husband Sam Sheridan, who wrote the series, took liberties with Fauna’s already dramatic life to create I Am the Night. It appears that the real Fauna and her descendants were comfortable with these changes. Before she died, Fauna served as an executive producer and consultant on the show; Fauna's daughters, Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile, host a companion podcast called "Root of Evil."
Never are the show’s deviations from real events more apparent than in the season finale. The climax of I Am the Night is a tense encounter between two real people — an encounter that almost definitely didn’t happen. In the show, Fauna ventures to Sowden House, the locus of her grandfather's doings. This is the ornate house where Elizabeth Short and Janet Brewster were likely murdered; where her mother was abused; where strange orgies with the intelligentsia took place; where illegal abortions were carried out. Like Persephone dining with Hades, Fauna is warned not to eat George's food. Take a bite of his poisoned food, and she'll be consigned to the same fate as her biological mother.
As tempting as the food looks, Fauna keeps her mouth closed. So George moves her onto the next phase of his entrapment: the artist's studio. By painting Fauna, George begins the process of dehumanization he'd done with past women — he captures and controls her body. But Fauna is able to fight back. For a flash, she becomes the bull, a motif scattered throughout the show. She liberates herself from George, physically and metaphorically.
The encounter is narratively poetic. It's also impossible. George Hodel wasn’t in California the year that Fauna finally reunited with her birth mother, Tamar. He wasn’t even in the United States. After the 1949 trials, during which Tamar linked George to the still-unsolved Black Dahlia murder, he fled for Asia, where he lived until 1990.
The real Fauna Hodel contacted George under very different circumstances than the show. She was 15 years old and had just given birth to her first daughter, Yvette. At this important life juncture, Fauna was compelled to reach out to her biological mother. After tracking down a relative in Los Angeles, she called George while he was living in Asia, and he pointed her toward Tamar in Hawaii. Five years later, when Fauna could finally visit Tamar in Hawaii, she and George spoke on the phone again.
George and Fauna only came face-to-face once, and Fauna wasn't aware of it at the time. George approached Fauna while she was at a marina with her daughter, Yvette. When she was going through photo albums with her half-siblings, she put the pieces together.
Later in life, Fauna moved to Hawaii and had another daughter, Rasha Pecoraro, with a different man. The real Fauna didn't let her childhood trauma close her off. "She was kind, compassionate, and loving, always. I think she decided to be the polar opposite of everything she experienced,” Rasha, her younger daughter, told Cultursmag.
Part of Fauna's compassion was extended toward her younger self — she was very open about her emotional journey. “I don’t want to tell your story anymore. I just want you to get away,” Jay Singletary says to Fauna in the show. But the real Fauna spent her life telling her story. In 1991, she was involved in the production of the movie Pretty Hattie's Baby, starring Alfre Woodard as her adoptive mother Jimmie Lee. However, the movie never made it to theaters — Fauna suspects her grandfather, George, squashed it using his remaining political clout. Fauna's 2008 memoir, One Day She'll Darken, was the basis for the TNT show.
In 2017, Fauna died at the age of 66. By hosting the TNT companion podcast, her daughters are continuing their mother's legacy of bringing the Hodel family secrets to light.

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