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The Flash Star Candice Patton Opens Up About Sticking With Iris Role Despite Online Harassment And 'No Support Systems'

Candice Patton on The Flash
(Image credit: The CW)

When The Flash debuted on The CW back in the fall of 2014, it didn’t just introduce viewers to a brand-new corner of the then-burgeoning Arrowverse. It also gifted fans with a number of talented actors, including Iris West (eventually Allen) actress Candice Patton. The star has become a fan favorite over the years, with many coming to appreciate her take on the iconic DC Comics character. Sadly though, things got off to a rough start for Patton, as her casting was met with a significant amount of backlash from “fans.” Now, as the superhero show heads towards what could be its final season, Patton is opening up about sticking with the role despite online harassment and initially having a lack of “support systems.”

It was a bit surprising when Candice Patton was cast in the role of Iris West, considering the character had historically been portrayed as a white redhead. However, from the jump, there were a number of people who appreciated the change for this new take on the Flash mythos. Those positive sentiments were unfortunately accompanied by a wave of racist and misogynistic attacks via social media. Patton essentially stepped into an arena where countermeasures for such things hadn’t been put in place at the time. And for the star – who was one of DCTV’s first prominent Black actresses, that was difficult to deal with:

It’s also a very dangerous place to be in when you’re one of the first, and you’re receiving so much backlash from it and there is no help. Now, people understand it a little better, and they understand how fans can be racist, especially in genre, misogynistic all of that. But at the time it was kind of like: ‘Yeah that’s how fans are, but whatever.' Even with the companies I was working with, CW and Warner Brothers, that was their way of handling it. I think we know better now that it’s not OK to treat your talent that way and to let them go through this abuse and harassment. But for me, in 2014, there were no support systems, no one was looking out for that. It was just free range to get abused every day… There were no social media protocols in place to protect me. They just let all that stuff sit there.

Such vitriol has become all-too-common when it comes to fandom, as The Flash is far from the only TV series or movie whose casts have had to deal with such abuse. Throughout her time on the program, Candice Patton has clapped back at the haters, though. For example, when someone once claimed that she was ruining the show, she provided a response that was gold. Dealing with such negativity can be annoying but, as she explained on the Open Up podcast (opens in new tab), what she really found “frustrating” was how she treated differently from her co-stars:

It’s more so the day-to-day stuff that affects me, like the protocols in place [and] the things I see happening for my white counterpart that’s not happening to me. Seeing how I’m treated differently than other people. Seeing how I’m not protected by the network and the studio. Not promoted in the same way they would promote other people sometimes. Those were the things that not necessarily hurt me but frustrated me.

During the conversation, the Young and the Restless alum would even admit that she wanted to “leave the show as early as season two” of The Flash because she was feeling “unhappy.” I think many of us would agree that she shouldn’t have had to go through such things over the past several years but, at the very least, her experiences have yielded positives. Today, studios are more attentive when it comes to protecting actors of color from such attacks. The Star Wars franchise spoke out on the racist backlash that Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Moses Ingram received and sharply chastised those who’d shared negative sentiments.

Candice Patton, as previously mentioned, has also become a beloved part of the DCTV mythos and has helped pave the way for other women of color within the genre. Patton, alongside others like Titans’ Anna Diop, has spoken on representation and why it matters. On top of that, Iris West has been depicted as a Black woman in more recent comics and animated productions, a trend that was arguably jump started by Patton’s work.

More recently, Candice Patton missed a number of episodes during Season 8 of The Flash (which recently concluded) but, ahead of the finale, she was confirmed to be returning for Season 9. One would hope that as the show enters what might be its final year, Patton will be treated with the dignity and respect that she very well deserves. 

Past seasons of The Flash can be streamed with a Netflix subscription.

Erik Swann
Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.