‘I Am The Night’ followed the story of Fauna Hodel’s search for the truth about her family. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with costume designer Rhona Meyers about showcasing Fauna’s evolution with her clothes.
I Am The Night was a gripping trip back in time to the 1960s. The period noir starred India Eisley, Chris Pine, Jefferson Mays, and more. The story focuses on the life of Fauna Hodel, played by India, a young girl given up by her birth mother who sets out to uncover the secrets of her past. Her search leads her down a trail that brings her closer to a gynecologist who may have been involved in the infamous Black Dahlia slaying.
Over the course of the show’s 6 episodes, Fauna goes from a small town girl to a powerful woman. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with costume designer Rhona Meyers for our Emmy Contenders series about emphasizing Fauna’s transformation with her wardrobe. Talking with Fauna’s daughters really allowed Rhona to understand Fauna in a way she never thought possible. She also discussed making sure both Jay and George Hodel’s personalities were shown through their clothes, as well as Hollywood inspirations, in our Q&A.
What was it like for you having Fauna’s daughters as a reference when coming up with the wardrobe for a period piece such as I Am The Night?
Rhona Meyers: It’s not just a period piece, it was about their mother. I met them. We’d already been prepping and I met them a couple weeks into our shooting. It was amazing to meet them. First of all, they’re the most loving, amazing people on the planet. Besides that, they just started talking and are so open. It wasn’t hard to ask any questions because obviously, this is a pretty touchy subject matter, a lot of it. When I did research on Fauna, I read her book. I looked on the internet and there were scarce pictures of her, but there wasn’t anything that really sort of told the story about who she was. Her daughters filled me in on how amazing she was, how loving she was, and I got some other pictures from them that weren’t published on the internet. They described the personalities and characters. They told me a lot about Tamar [Hodel] because there was very, very little about Tamar. They helped me paint a better picture of Tamar, in regards to her personality, that she always sort of got what she wanted. She could be pretty manipulative. She would sort of manipulate her way into getting the best clothes. Whatever it was, she figured it out. She had that way about her. Yvette, the other daughter, was telling me because she started talking about the red coat, that she was at Jimmie Lee’s house in Sparks. Jimmie Lee was at one point drunk and screaming at her and kicked her out of the house and so she picked up her red coat and started walking down the street. She was three years old and had no idea where she was going but she felt like Little Red Riding Hood in this red coat and I’m like, “Yvette, you know Fauna’s main wardrobe is this red coat?” The weird thing is, I saw this coat and I’m like, “Oh my god, I love this coat. I don’t know why but I have to have this coat. We have to use this coat.” I had no idea why until she told me that story. I’m like, “Oh my god, it was this weird psychic thing.”
At the center of this show is Fauna, who is played by the lovely India Eisley. Talk to me a little bit about collaborating with her and showcasing Fauna’s evolution through her clothes.
Rhona Meyers: India starts off in Sparks. She’s still prim and proper. She’s a school girl. It’s almost like Jimmie Lee keeps her sort of in a bubble in a way. She doesn’t know about her real life or anything like that and one of Jimmie Lee’s lines is like, “Don’t I give you always the best clothes and you’re always the best dressed”. She starts off almost like this little doll with the Peter Pan collar, blouses, cardigans, circle skirts with crinolines, and little T-strapped shoes. She’s just precious. We kept Sparks sort of in her ‘50s vibe so that when Fauna goes to LA, it’s like a small town left behind in time. When Fauna goes to LA, there’s a definite change and her eyes are wide open. She sees a whole different world, a whole different fashion, and then the first night she goes out with her cousin. She’s originally going out looking for her grandfather and her grandfather is a kind of no show. He doesn’t respond to her. She ends up with her cousins from the other side of their family and they take her to a party. It’s pre-Black Panther, Black Power stuff happening. There are girls with natural Afros and turtlenecks and very Angela Davis looking. It’s a little more groomed and smaller hooped earrings and turtlenecks and she just loves these powerful women. She starts to take on the look. She leaves her little girlness behind and starts adopting this kind of look.
What I really loved is seeing the stark difference between Jay and George Hodel’s fashion. Jay is obviously very messy and unhinged. The other is so well put together and clinical. I really noticed that over the course of the season, just because of how different they are. What were your thoughts about crafting the men’s fashion? I felt like it was really important to showcase Jay and George’s personalities through their clothes.
Rhona Meyers: Most of the clothes for both of them were made to order because we needed multiple outfits, but as far as Jay goes, he’s a junkie. He’s sort of a hack writer now who was a star writer at one time. He’s got mismatched pieces. He’s got some of his stuff from the ‘50s. He’s sort of based loosely on James Dean, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, all the outsiders from the ’50s and ’60s. His jackets are still good jackets from the ‘50s but they’re old, they’re worn, he sleeps in his clothes, and he wears them day-in and day-out. Then he’s got like ‘60s pants. He’s kind of mismatched a little bit but it kind of works for him and his character. Those sort of Keds deck shoes with the short pants. We kept him in those kinds of things. It was just the difference between him and George Hodel, who was kind of a monster on the inside. But he’s kept so uptight, he manages his personality from his clothing almost and so he wears pristine three-piece suits with little accouterments. I gave him some Masonic jewelry, although I’m not sure he’s Masonic or not. It seemed like the same thing that happened with Fauna, where we found this dark sort of jewelry that had his initial “H” on this Masonic jewelry. It’s not like I said, “Look for some Masonic stuff for him.” It was almost like it came to us. It was like, “Oh, wow. Okay. This is meant to be”. In his real life, I think he wore a World War I or World War II trench coat. The one I gave him was a little more structured. It was a little more altruistic to keep holding everything inside. He’s so internal that you would never know what was happening on the outside.
Both Fauna and Corinna Hodel definitely have some of the best pieces of clothing throughout the show. Who was your favorite character that you loved styling for working on this show?
Rhona Meyers: I loved all of them. They were all great to dress. They were all great to collaborate with. Everybody had their ideas that they wanted to bring to the character, and of course, I wanted to bring all those ideas to life because that helps create the best character. Corinna was the most fun to do because we got to do so much with her, from the Asian lounging outfit to her performance dress. I don’t know if you know this but we sort of did keep the Hodel crowd in the ’40s. Patty [Jenkins] wanted to do that because she just thought that would highlight the life. That was a definite vibe for them and for Corinna, for sure. She was also very modern. She’s a performance artist so she had to sort of modern in that way, but she was such a mix because she was also an art collector. We had some ’20s pieces for her. She was super fun and I loved making stuff for her. She’s so groundless and beautiful in real life. She just carried everything perfectly and she knew how to wear the clothes. I loved everything for her.
Was there a character who was particularly challenging to style?
Rhona Meyers: No one was particularly challenging, I would say. In all honesty, probably Chris’s character. Just because it was so simple. We had to get accurate because he’s so good-looking and everything looked — the ’60s stuff — looked modern on him so we had to make it not look modern. If we just gave him the ’60s pants and an untucked shirt, that would just look very modern, like very Prada or something.
You mentioned earlier that for Jay at least, you were inspired by James Dean and Steve McQueen. Did you have any celebrity inspirations for the costumes with the women?
Rhona Meyers: Yes. For Fauna, I didn’t have a specific person but I did draw a lot from the French New Wave era for Fauna. For Corinna, I researched a lot of Dorothy Huston Hodel because that’s what character she was based on, as well as Anna May Wong, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, Grace Kelly, and Veronica Lake.