The Flash actress Candice Patton was, as a woman of color, an offbeat casting for normally redheaded Iris West, and she came to know it early on in the show’s run.
There was a heavy backlash from fans online over the fact Iris wasn’t going to be Caucasian, and Patton recently got candid about her experience with it during her first year on the series.
She revealed to The Open Up Podcast she was “severely unhappy” with the “racially charged remarks” she received online in the first year, and wanted to leave when Season 2 came around. “I remember being like, ‘I can’t do this. I’m not going to make it through. I don’t want to be here,'” she said of her mindset at the time.
Adding the role of Iris came with “responsibility,” she talked about the “backlash” from fans who “can be racist,” and how there were no protections in place for her or the rest of the cast, which she accused The CW of not caring about.
“At the time, it was kind of like, ‘Yeah, that’s how fans are, but whatever,'” Patton said. “Even with the companies I was working with — CW, Warner Bros. — I think that was their way of handling it.” She continued, “I think we know better now. It’s not OK to treat your talent that way, to let them go through abuse and harassment. But for me in 2014, there were no support systems. No one was looking out for that.”
Patton added further, “It was just free range to get abused every single day. There were no social media protocols in place to protect me; they just let all that stuff sit there.” She then said there should be “people in positions of power who understand my experience and understand the Black experience, the Black female experience who can say, ‘OK, she needs protection.'”
Continuing, the actress claimed people of color don’t get protection in real life, not even if they are famous. “If I get pulled over at 2 a.m. in Jackson, Mississippi, by a white cop, do you think he gives a s— that I’m Candice Patton from The Flash? It doesn’t matter.”
Patton brought her coworkers on the show, who are mostly white, into the conversation and thinks they have “blind spots” to overcome, even if their intentions are good. “We still need protection because the world sees us in a certain way,” she explained. “So when I step onto set and everyone working around me is white…I’m not protected; I will never be protected.”
“And that’s not to say that these people have bad intentions…but they have blind spots,” she continued. “They have a lot of blind spots, and that can also contribute to my harm. It’s been a learning experience, I’m sure, for companies and corporations and productions.”
Another complaint of hers at the time was the official Flash Instagram didn’t follow her account at first, but she claims she doesn’t care about that stuff anymore. “I remember asking my publicist, I was like, ‘Do you think you could get The Flash account to follow me?'” Patton recalled. “Back when I cared about that s— and wanted to be included.”
Despite all this, she soldiered on as a cast member for her fans who loved her portrayal of Iris. Patton felt “a huge responsibility” to them.
“It was such an iconic casting, such an iconic role, and I knew how much this meant to so many people that I felt a responsibility to stay in a space and a place that was probably very toxic for my mental health,” she said.
Patton is staying on for the ninth season with fellow originals Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker, while Jesse L. Martin, who plays her father, is leaving. How her comments affect her working relationships, especially with The CW and WB, is a mystery as they haven’t responded to her claims.