Candice Patton at Dragon Con 2015: “Iris West Being Black is Very Important”


By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)


It is clear Candice Patton feels a responsibility in playing Iris West on The Flash.


Iris is typically white in the comic books, but Patton obviously sees the importance in perhaps being an inspiration to young people and women her age, particularly those who see themselves in her.


“If people are inspired, I think that’s great. I’ve been inspired by so many actors, musicians, talents that have come before me, and the fact that anyone could see me as inspiring is only my way of giving back,” Patton said. “It means a lot to me. This is why I do conventions, to meet the fans who are inspired. It’s great seeing a young black girl come up to me, so excited that I’m Iris West. I tweeted something months ago, some young girl said, ‘Iris West looks like me. We’re beautiful!’ That’s powerful! The media is very powerful, and whether Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti know this or not, but casting me has made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives, and that’s important. The media is very important. TV shows are very important. Iris West being black is very important. And that matters to me. It’s not something that I take lightly. It’s not something that I’m unaware of. I wear that badge proudly.”


We’re at a press conference at Dragon Con, an annual convention in Atlanta involving many aspects of nerd culture. Patton has just completed a panel with her co-stars Robbie Amell, Danielle Panabaker, and John Wesley Shipp.


During the panel, it was mentioned the first season concentrated on the Allen family, but this season will focus on the West family with the introduction of Iris’ mother and relative Wally.


Patton couldn’t spoil the circumstances surrounding Iris’ mother’s appearance, but she could tease that there may be more than meets the eye.


“Mama West has been absent from Iris’ life for a very long time,” she said. “[Iris has] been told one thing and she comes to find out from her father that it’s not true, that her mother has been gone for a completely different reason, and that comes as a shock to Iris. And that’s something that she has to struggle through for a little bit.”


She also said the introduction of Wally West is a bit of a mystery, even to her.


“I’ve read nothing,” she said. “There are no scripts out about that. He’s not even on our show yet. He doesn’t start shooting until October. But, I screen-tested with him in May. I know the relationship that we have, and that’s really all I know. I don’t know how he’ll be brought on, when and where he’ll have his powers, any of that, I know nothing.”


She doesn’t even know if his storyline on the show will mirror what is currently seen in the comics, specifically in regards to the fact he’s gay.


“I don’t know if his sexuality has been determined or not or anything like that. And I actually didn’t know that he was gay in the current incarnation of Flash. But that’s pretty cool, and I’m sure it’s something that’s being discussed. I just don’t know yet which way they’ll go with that,” Patton said.


Though details regarding that storyline remain unknown, Patton did want to clear the air about rumors she will be taking a leadership role on Team Flash in STAR Labs.


“It’s a semi-truth. I keep getting Google Alerts about that: ‘Iris West, new STAR Labs leader!’ And I’m like, “Oh, God! People are gonna be in for a shock!” She’s not the new Wells of STAR Labs,” Patton said. “Basically what I think was being referred to is this idea that Iris is one of the few people who can really, really talk to Barry and rally him when he needs to be rallied. There comes a point very early on in season two that she needs to do that with Barry and get STAR Labs back together and back on their footing after this whole singularity has happened. They’re all shaken up and I think a lot of them are at the point of walking away. Iris is the one who tells them that we’re a team and we have to fight to save the city. So that’s kind of her role, in terms of being a leader in that sense. But I was saying in the panel Iris is an iconic reporter and journalist and that’s how we know her from the comic books. I think that’s more of her role that we’ll see in season two, and we’ll see her step into that and be a kick-ass reporter.


And exploring Iris’ role as a reporter is definitely something Patton wants to do, though she understands Iris may feel conflicted when determining if she will ever give up Barry Allen’s secret identity.


“I’m sure at some point Iris will have to face the conflict of knowing who The Flash is and writing about who The Flash is,” said Patton. “I don’t know when that will happen. I think that would make for a really interesting storyline, just to see her be conflicted with the loyalty to Barry and The Flash and her need to be a morally responsible journalist. I think at the end of the day for me, Iris’ ruling thumb is loyalty to her family and Barry is family. And also what’s really important to her is Central City and that’s what The Flash is trying to do is protect Central City and so giving up his identity, she would be putting that in danger.”


In furthering her journalism career, Iris will be seen more at the Central City Picture News, but Patton isn’t sure how her involvement in Team Flash will affect her job at the paper.


“It’s nice to have Iris finally be in the know because there’s not secrets being held from her and she’s not getting in the way and she can use her assets,” she said. “I’m not quite sure how that will look in terms of her journalism career and how she helps The Flash or how The Flash helps her. I’m assuming she’s going to find herself in some very tough and dangerous situations and it’s nice to have someone like The Flash who’s looking out for you when you’re reporting about really dangerous stuff.”


Regarding that danger, it sounds like Iris will get into some tight situations in season two, but as seen in season one, she is perfectly capable of saving herself.


“Even in season one we saw her as tough and kind of a badass, and the more we can see of that – she took down the Clock King, she knocked out Peek-a-Boo with a wrench – there’s more of that happening in season two. I will tell you, there’s one scene where she ends up jumping out of a [window of a building], so there’s a lot of cool, fun, kickass stuff for her,” Patton said.


However, the stunt work Patton does herself is never too heavy.


“We have contracts that say we can’t do certain things, unfortunately, because I would totally be willing to do it. But my stunt double will often step in. So I can’t take credit for a lot of that. I wish I could. But she makes me look great. But I like doing that kind of stuff. The little bit that they let me do, I love doing. It’s a challenge and it’s really fun for me as an actor,” she said.


Not as challenging is getting into character to be Iris.


“Now that we’ve been doing it for a season, I don’t really have to get into the character. I live with her every day, which is nice. It’s not something I have to come into work and really think about because I live with Iris every single day,” Patton said. “When I go home from work, when I’m on hiatus, when I’m here with you guys, when I’m walking around, I’m thinking about her. But in terms of when I started, a lot of it was going back and reading the comic books, understanding what was so beloved about Barry Allen and what was so beloved about Iris West and their relationship. For me it’s about learning the scripts, knowing my lines, and then I don’t know, when you work with actors like Jesse Martin and Grant Gustin as I said in the panel, it’s so easy. It’s really easy. You don’t have to work that hard. When I’m sitting down with Grant, we can just have a conversation and what you see is what ends up on TV. It’s really quite easy and I wish I could say that it was harder. I really do! Working with incredible actors – and Grant is just one of those young actors that just has a gift. He really makes you as an actor look great when really it’s him doing a lot of the heavy lifting.”


In terms of Iris’ relationship with Barry and how it will progress after the loss of Eddie, Patton thinks it may take a while for them to get together.


“In terms of her relationship with Barry and how that will evolve, I think we all know that Patty Spivot is coming on, so there’s a relationship going on there,” she said. “As far as Iris, I don’t know if she’ll have a new love interest this season. I’m assuming that will happen, I hope that happens, that’s always fun. Barry and Iris, it’s one of those things: ‘Will they, won’t they?”’ We’re hoping to have six, seven seasons, so I think it might take a while for those WestAllen fans. Who knows?


But with the introduction of Patty Spivot, Patton thinks it may open the door for Iris to have more female friends. In season one, Danielle Panabaker was the only other female series regular, and since Iris didn’t know Barry’s secret, the two of them didn’t hang out much. Patton thinks that will change this season, though.


“I think it’s hard when you only have two female characters on the show,” Patton said. “We’re remedying that this season with a lot of female characters. Patty [Spivot] and Linda Park (Malese Jow) is coming back. As far as Iris’ relationship with Caitlin, I don’t know that it’s that in depth yet. One thing they do share in common is that – I caught myself almost saying something. [Laughs] I don’t know, to answer that question. But I do know that there will be more female relationships. Iris West and Linda Park specifically have a friendship that will be prevalent in season two, which I’m excited about. They work together and they’re both very strong-willed women, and they support each other, and I think that’s a great message for people to see.”


Patton also hopes other relationships will begin to form as Iris is brought into the Team Flash fold more, but she said it hasn’t happened yet in terms of where they are in filming season two.


“I wish I could say – I mean, I think there’s a little small dynamic between Iris and Barry – I mean Iris and Cisco, and Iris and Caitlin. I find myself with them often when Barry’s off saving the world, and Iris is in the lab with Cisco and Cailtin. So there’s a little bit of banter that happens. And that’s nice. But in terms of deep, new relationships with these characters? Not so much, yet. But that doesn’t mean that that couldn’t evolve over time,” she said.


Patton says she has trust in the writers, especially since season one was so big. She said she loved the twists and turns of season one and is sure there will be more of that to come. A few episodes from the first season that specifically stood out to her as crazy.

“There were a couple where I was just laying on the floor of my apartment and I would turn the page and just throw it across the room. “You can’t do this! I can’t believe we’re doing this!” In particular 15 and 16. When he reveals that he’s The Flash and then in 16 where you see he’s gone back in time. It’s stuff like that,” said Patton. “Every episode is like that. Andrew Kreisberg says it often: “We don’t save ideas. If a great idea comes to us, we’ll use it. We’ll come up with another idea later.” And I think that’s what made our first season so great. Every episode was big. Every single episode. We didn’t hold anything for season two or season three. We used everything we had when we had it. And it just forces you to come up with better ideas. And I’m assuming season two will be the same.”


One thing she thinks could happen in season two? The reappearance of Eddie, her boyfriend who sacrificed himself for the greater good in the season one finale.


“I think anyone could come back. This is a show where anything could happen. No one is really ever dead. Oh, God, there’s so much I wish I could just…! It would make my life so much easier if I could be like, “So…!” But yeah, I don’t think it’s impossible for Eddie to come back,” she said.


In the meantime, viewers will see Iris trying to pick up the pieces after her loss.


“Obviously she’s devastated that she lost Eddie,” said Patton. “She loved him, and she loved him to the last moment. I think we saw that when she was holding onto his body. We pick up season two – I mean, there’s flashbacks to the singularity, but we ‘re picking up six months later, so she’s had time to grieve. Obviously you don’t get over someone that you love in six months, but it’s not something that we see Iris dealing with every day, the loss of Eddie. So she’s at a place, when we pick up, that she’s sort of putting her life back together and trying to move forward.”


Patton knows there are those people that really want Iris with Barry, though. She said she tries to stay away from comments so as not to bring negativity into her life, but she understands why WestAllen as a ship gets the love it does.


“I think it comes from a sense of really wanting people to respect that iconic relationship,” Patton said. “And I think as long as any fans, any shipper fans, as long as people are being respectful. It’s a story. None of this is real. It’s make-believe, so we should all be having fun, right? It should all be in good fun and everyone should be light-hearted and kind about it. But yeah, I think they’re just passionate and you can’t really fault them for that.”


In terms of Iris’ relationship with Barry, Patton thinks the scene in which she finds out he is The Flash was one of the hardest to shoot in season one. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel Iris reaction wasn’t justified. In the panel before the press conference, Patton said she thinks Iris is a good woman. It is unmistakable Patton also thinks Iris is shown to be a multi-faceted woman, and not just a Mary Sue. Iris deserves to have the emotions she feels, particularly during that scene, and Patton hopes that will continue into season two and beyond.


“I think, in general, the biggest and the hardest thing for me as an actor to play was finding out who Barry really was. And dealing with that with Barry and my father, Joe, and learning that they had kept a secret from me. You know, because I had been playing this entire season that everything was fine, that she had these great relationships with the people she loves the most. So having to shoot those scenes with Grant and Jesse were really difficult. Difficult just in the sense that I wanted to get it right. I really wanted to give it justice, and I feel like, “That was the one time Iris deserved to be angry!” You know, I know some people were like, “She’s too angry and she’s such a bitch!” And she deserved to be angry, and it’s ok to see women be angry. Especially when men are lying to them. They deserve to be angry.”


The Flash returns on October 6, 2015 at 8 p.m. on The CW.


  1. CillaSeptember 25th, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Thank you for a great article. It is so important that Iris is played by a black woman, it is so great to see a woc as a female lead and genuine love interest but at the same time be a character in her own right. It makes me happy as a woc to see myself represented on a tv show especially with an iconic character like Iris West. I agree with Candice, Iris had every right to be angry and it’s a shame some people blamed her for being lied to and not the liars but I am glad she finally knows.
    I am really looking forward to Iris’s storylines this season, see her develope into an ace reporter, more badass moments, helping out Star and her relationship with Barry. I can’t wait for Wally and Mama West, be great to see their dynamics.

  2. CillaSeptember 25th, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for a great article. It is so important for that a black woman is a female lead, and is playing a genuine love interest as well as being a character in her own right. As a woc it is great to see representation, and to see it for such an iconic character like Iris West. I agree with Candice, Iris had every right to be angry but its a shame some people blamed and hated her for being lied to rather than the liars.
    I am really looking forward to Iris’s storylines this season. I can’t wait to see her develope into an ace reporter, more badass moments and helping out Star Labs. I can’t wait to see the dynamic Iris will have with Wally and Mama West.

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