Golden Brooks might best be known for her role as Maya Wilkes on Girlfriends, a resilient mother, and clap-back queen, but her latest role in TNT’s I Am the Night sees her playing a mother much unlike her iconic character. Golden talked to us about the new limited suspense series, premiering on TNT January 28th, where she plays Jimmy Lee, a troubled mother to the main character, Fauna Hodel (played by India Eisley). She tells us how it feels to often play the mother role, where she draws inspiration for her latest (and darkest) character, and what’s on the horizon for Golden.

Hi Golden, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you. So tell us a little about your character, Jimmy Lee; in this show, she seems like she’s kind of troubled.

Yes, very troubled. Jimmy Lee, who—this whole miniseries is based on a true story and it’s a page out of the Black Dahlia, very film noir-esque—finds Fauna, this little girl, Caucasian girl, in a hotel bathroom and raises this little girl as African-American. And of course, Fauna grows up knowing something’s wrong, something’s off. Jimmy Lee is someone who’s very—I mean, I have empathy for her, and do think other people will as well—but she’s very damaged, she’s got dealt a card, you know, that—life didn’t work out the way she wanted it. She takes a lot of it out on Fauna—there’s a lot of resentment, a lot of anger and a lot of sadness—and even through all of that, I do believe Jimmy Lee loves Fauna but has lied to her pretty much her whole life. And now the story starts with the two of them, in this sort of, co-dependent bond, and Fauna, in turn, leaves to go and find who she really is, where she comes from.

It sounds really, really interesting. You play a mom in this show; you also were a mom on Girlfriends, and in a few other shows, as a mom yourself, are you drawn to characters that are mothers? Is there a challenge in playing these mothers, differently?

You know, there is! It’s so funny, my very first job, TV job, was playing a teenage mom, and I’m like “I don’t even have kids [yet]”. It’s so funny—my mom and I were actually talking about that—and each character I’ve ever played being a mother, yeah, they’re all so very different, but one key to all of them, one link, is that there is unconditional love. And I think every mother I played has been somewhat flawed in some way. But I think that Jimmy Lee is probably the most complex mother—complex character—I’ve ever had to play, you know, pulling from that darkness, that victimization—she’s definitely a victim in her own life and its everyone else’s fault that things didn’t work out for her. But by the same token, she does everything in her power to protect her daughter. Jimmy Lee, I feel, doesn’t know how to show love. And that was the main emotional piece to this character that was very hard for me, because as a mother in real life, I’m very loving and very doting on my daughter—I mean, you know, you have to embody some tough love every now and then—but Jimmy Lee comes from a very dark, damaged place, you know, you hurt me, I’m gonna hurt you—and I don’t live in that space. But emotionally, to pull from that you definitely have to go to those emotional places that you sort of suppress in your everyday life—that was the hardest part, letting down the armor and just being this very astringent, tough love, kind of woman.

What can we look forward to, just for Golden Brooks? What can we expect to see in the future?

Well, I’m up for something right now, another TV project. If that comes to fruition I’ll definitely let you guys know. And then, writing, I have a script that I’m selling, working on a book—not a conventional, like self-help, nothing like that, more of pieces of prose and poems that I’ve written over the years. I think that’s a lost art form—poetry, people don’t read poetry anymore. So just working on that, and I have a pillow and candle line that I’m getting that out as well. So those are some of the things I’m just really focusing on, and then the TV and film projects are still moving along!

I Am the Night premieres Monday, January 28, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT).

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