‘The Flash’ Star Candice Patton Tearfully Inspires Comic Book Fans To Look Beyond Race
I don’t think I planned to be crying when I went into a ten-minute phone call interview with “The Flash” star Candice Patton. I meant to talk about the bombshell ending to last week’s (awesome) episode, where her character Iris West finally discovered that Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is the titular superhero, The Flash. I meant to talk about how the show is literally going bananas this week, introducing an evil psychic gorilla who likes to eat brains named Grodd.
A bit of that did happen, but by the end of the interview I had a little something in my eye, and so did Patton. And as you you’ll see, it’s because of some extremely powerful words she has about her (totally accurate) place in television history, and how it’s affecting the next generation of viewers.
MTV News: First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on Iris being a better reporter than Lois Lane — and actually figuring out her superhero’s secret identity
Candice Patton: Aw, thank you! I don’t know how to take that — but I’ll take it.
MTV: Obviously that moment is pretty huge, with Iris figuring out Barry is secretly The Flash… How does that affect her going forward?
Patton: It’s a lot for Iris to process! Not only is her best friend The Flash, she’s realizing that he’s been keeping this secret from her for a very long time — since he was struck by lightening practically. And on top of that, her father’s been lying to her as well.
She’s also processing all of the conversations that she had with Flash, thinking that it was someone else. And now [she’s] going back realizing that those conversations were essentially with Barry Allen. So it’s a lot for her to process, and we’ll see her go from being angry, to feeling betrayed and really, really hurt.
And on top of that, Eddie’s missing, so she’s dealing with a lot.
MTV: It’s interesting to hear you say that, because the fan expectation is that she would be excited to finally discover this… She loves the Flash, she’s a huge fan of Flash — so it seems like it would be a good thing. But it sounds like it’s actually a pretty bad thing for all of her relationships.
Patton: Yeah! I mean obviously, she’s a really huge, huge fan and supporter of The Flash. I like to think of her as the number one fan. But it takes the excitement away to know that she’s been following this guy since he’s existed… And that it’s been her best friend, and he’s been lying about it. It changes the feelings that she’s had about The Flash to some degree.
MTV: There’s also been a sense of inevitability in the WestAllen relationship, particularly given Iris’ byline on that future newspaper last episode was Iris West-Allen. So with this new info, is it still inevitable? Or is there a change in the future?
Patton: That article that we see is nice foreshadowing to what’s possible for Iris and Barry Allen. And as we know in the comic books, that’s how we know Iris and Barry. But given the current situation of the relationship, I think we can assume that it will take a while to get there. They’re in the infancy of their romantic relationship.
MTV: But is it inevitable? In the comic books, sure, but given that it’s a TV show is that 100% the endgame?
Patton: I don’t know! I don’t know if that’s a question for me, you know? That’s a question for the writers and the creators. We’re an adaptation of the comic books, so there’s a lot of opportunity to change the story — but I think for me personally, having become a fan of the Flash comic books… I think it would be nice to see that come into fruition. But who knows? I don’t control those things.
MTV: That said, the fans are extremely protective of the WestAllen relationship… We’ve posted a few things here on MTV News, and whether it’s a clip teasing the pairing, or something suggesting an alternative, they go nuts. What’s your experience been like?
Patton: Listen, I try and stay away from my comment section on Twitter. But for the most part, the response that I get usually is very positive — and so it’s nice that my fans in particular really responded to [the last episode]. It’s always nice to give them something to be excited about for future episodes, for future seasons.
MTV: Why do you think your fans in particular are so protective of you — and Iris?
Patton: That’s a great question! I don’t know, but I can say that I’m extremely appreciative of it because I’m extremely protective over Iris too. I’ve loved this character since I went into the audition. I just want her to be written well, and to be celebrated the way she is in the comic books. I think fans feel the same way.
I think people love the character of Iris West. I think a lot of fans are also excited that Iris West is now African-American. They want to see her be strong, and intelligent, and a love interest — and so people come out in full force to defend that, and honor that. And I think that’s cool.
Iris is an iconic character in the comic book, and she should be protected to some degree. As should all of the iconic characters.
MTV: Earlier this week I was talking to Katrina Law about her character on “Arrow,” and how her character is LGBT — but it’s just a facet of her character, not the driving force behind her. And “Flash” is very similar, because you have this incredibly diverse cast that just happens to be diverse. It’s just parts of the whole. Have you had any interactions with younger actors — or kids of color — who were inspired by you taking on this role?
Patton: It’s so weird because when I was thinking about pilot season before I went in for “The Flash,” I just remember saying to myself, “I would love to get a role that changes the landscape of being an African American woman in television and film.”
And lo and behold I got “Flash,” playing a traditionally white character, and I didn’t realize what would come with that. It’s been incredibly difficult, but at the same time I’ve been in a position to give a lot of young actors that look like me hope that more characters are going to be written like Iris West and Joe West.
And not even just actors. I get comments all the time on Twitter, and fan mail about how amazing it is to see me play Iris West: a strong woman. It’s not really about her being black, she just happens to be black.
Someone tweeted me the other day during [the last episode] and said, “I’m watching ’The Flash’ with my five year old and she is looking at you and she said, ’Iris West looks like me, we’re both beautiful.’ ” I mean, I literally could cry.
MTV: It’s important though, right? That we’re able to show people that they can be anything — and TV is an incredible medium to do that.
Patton: It’s great. It’s great to know that young black girls are seeing themselves on TV as leading ladies, and I’m part of that. It’s just such an honor.