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Interview: I Am The Night’s Golden Brooks

by Charles Trapunski

In case you didn’t already know (and if not, we highly recommend you start binge watching), I Am The Night is an incredible series. Actress Golden Brooks is transformative as the mother of India Eisley‘s character, Fauna Hodel, and just wait until you see more of Jimmy Lee (Golden’s character) in the upcoming episodes! Be sure to catch her dynamic with Eisley as both are fascinating performers.

In an interview that was both surprising and serendipitous, Golden Brooks opened up to Brief Take about her creative process, which involved a method for which we definitely approve (staring at Chris Pine).

The following is a condensed and edited version of a buoyant chat with the shining Golden Brooks.

Brief Take: Both the cast in general and you in particular are quite interconnected in your roles and with each other, especially India Eisley, who raved about you in our interview.

Golden Brooks: Wow, what a great perception! It’s so funny, because when I was watching it, even though we all have our own flawed sort of journey through which we are navigating, there is the element that the through line involves all of us—you are absolutely right. And India? There is no Jimmy Lee without Fauna. She is so raw and pure and honest in this, and her intention is so spot on. In order for you to feel for the other characters, you have to go on that journey with her, and she just knocks it out of the park. There’s a vulnerability but there’s also a strength, and a need to make her world better. You go on that ride with her and we’re all sort of orbiting around her, she is sort of ricocheting off of us, but she’s so good at her craft. She just takes it, man—she’s honestly so raw and so authentic. She’s why I do what I do. You don’t work with people like that every day who are as giving as much as what you’re giving, you’re giving back what you’re…you know, that Meisner thing, it’s reaction and man, she’s really at the top of her skill set.

BT: You instinctively seem to have an awareness of light and darkness when it comes to crafting characters. 

GB: Thank you! Thank you so much. I really respect that and I appreciate that feedback. I think that there is that yin and yang and I think as an actor, you don’t always get to do that. You try to bring as much of that to every character you do, but you live for certain roles. You have roles that you do to pay the bills and to be working, but then you have roles that are really, truly tapping into your craft. I look at Chris Pine and I watch him do scenes, and I would be done and have been wrapped, but I would stick around, just sort of lurking [laughs] like “bing!” and be watching. I learned so much from just watching him—he’s so brilliant. I know people throw those words around, “brilliant, you are so amazing”, he is someone who makes these choices, these amazing choices and they actually work. He takes risks and I love it, and he’s not safe and yet contained, and I’ve learned a lot from him, from watching him. I never knew how layered he was. You watch someone’s work and they’re really good, and of course, he’s gorgeous. But then you look at him in this and you’re just like “Oh my gosh, he’s really riveting”. I learned not to just see what’s on the page, to find, like you said, the dark element.

BT: It’s incredible what Jefferson Mays instills in this role, bringing humanity to an awful person.

GB: It’s so true. I think that’s the beauty of your villain. You want to have…I think of The Silence of the Lambs. They never raise their voice really, they keep it monotone. And that’s somehow a little more haunting than someone who is a raging pit bull, you know? He’s so methodical in his destruction—there’s a method to it. He is a brilliant actor, and we haven’t gotten to our stuff yet, but just watching him. I mean I watch all the episodes and he is just riveting. And you do feel for him, you do. I think that is also a sign of someone who taps into the humanity of a character, because even in the worst of us, in the worst of mankind, you have to feel something. Whether it is empathy, I mean, I know I look at people like O.J. (Simpson), at the natural human condition of people you are going to feel something. You are going to feel hate and anger for the person, but I want to know vulnerability and sadness that you see in every destructive human being, and he’s definitely brought that out.

BT: How immersed were you in the character of Jimmy Lee?

GB: It’s so funny, I feel that I am a very visual person and when Patty (Jenkins) said to me that we’re doing no make-up, very little if none at all, and Jimmy Lee, she’s an alcoholic, she was beautiful but life has a way of dealing that side of us. So for me, visually, seeing the transformation of myself really made it that much easier, I would say, to go deeper into that darker place in myself out of which to pull myself. When you see yourself in the form in which you’re not used to seeing yourself, and you can see the deterioration of a character’s spirit so quickly and their clothes and their outer appearance, it helps you build that character. I don’t smoke, and Jimmy, you don’t see her without a cigarette and a drink in each hand, so that definitely helped. And we know people like this, I mean I don’t know a lot of people like this, but we all have a relative or a certain someone who we know that teeters right on the edge.

BT: Your acting journey has been so interesting, and your close friend Regina Hall, who attended your premiere, has also led quite a fascinating career.

GB: Absolutely! I am so proud of her and her metamorphosis. My daughter’s at a play at school and she’s coming tonight, I just got off the phone with her. At the time that she was coming from Scary Movie, we would have conversations, I mean hour-long marathons on the phone about where we see ourselves. We didn’t want to get stuck doing that type of role. Regina is so talented and has so much in her and is such a comedic genius, but you know she’s tapping into that other side too. And the power of saying no – sometimes the power of saying no to something that’s going to be the same rendition of what you’ve been doing – is empowering. So I think the fact that she’s been doing and saying yes to things, that things that are a little bit different and showing all of her range, she’s so brilliant, I’m so proud of her. Black Monday, that’s amazing, Shaft, she’s got that coming up, her resume right now in terms of her path is off the charts. She’s so supportive of me, and she knows how hard I work and in trying to be patient and waiting for the right thing. Sometimes people are like, “Oh, are you still working? Are you still in the business?” and to that I say “Yeah! I just don’t want to do the same things! I want to do something different”. When you’re trying to change a tone, sometimes it just takes a little bit longer.

BT: Who are some of your favourite collaborators?

GB: I would work with India (Eisley) again, in a heartbeat. I love her, she’s brilliant. Justin Cornwell, who is on the show also, he’s a brilliant actor. If my cards would be so lucky to have Chris Pine, I would. [giggles] Going into the past, I did a show, I don’t know if a lot of people saw it, called Blunt Talk and I loved Patrick Stewart, I’d like to work with him again. Moby too, he’s a genius, and producing something with Queen Latifah, she’s wonderful. I did a movie with her years ago (Beauty Shop). Mara Brock Akil who created Girlfriends, now she’s got a couple of other shows on the air. I mean she’s got a brilliant mind. Oh! Leland (Orser), he’s on the show, I would love to work with him! He’s been doing great work on Berlin Station. There are people that I feel just have this sort of vibe that I love. India and I, we text and chat and I’d love to work with her again. She has so many different layers to her, like she’s a demure little gorgeous porcelain doll, but she’s super tough, you know what I mean? She’s super tough. She’s got a great sort of duality that’s just beautiful to watch. Patty (Jenkins), again if my cards are ever so lucky, I’ve learned so much from her and I’ve just been learning a lot from different people with whom I’ve worked: producers, actors, directors. It’s tough. It’s like dining in a really amazing restaurant and you’ve got all of this amazing food, and then going back to like diner food. It’s hard, you know? It’s hard to have that creative superiority, as I see it, and it’s hard to go back to something that doesn’t feel as authentic as this, but I try! [laughs]

BT: How is it going with your writing project?

GB: I am actively pitching it right now and we’ll see where it goes. It’s a very dark dramedy, and I believe that there’s a level of comedy in all darkness. What’s so brilliant about Chris Pine’s character (in I Am the Night) is that you gotta find the humour in all this. I tried to write without the humour, but I can’t. But the laughter, for me, in my community is a big deal and I think how we survived so much stuff that is out of our control. So I just try to find a little dark comedy in my writing, so we’ll see! I’m hoping that this time next year or maybe by the end of the year, this will land somewhere.

 

I Am The Night airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on TNT in the U.S. and Bravo in Canada

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Brief Take