The Flash's Candice Patton Feels The CW Didn't Protect Her From Fan Backlash

In 2020, The CW posted to their official Twitter account a message that they "will not tolerate and will block racist or misogynistic comments as well as any hate towards the LGBTQ+ community." But back when The Flash debuted in 2014, series star Candice Patton says the network did nothing to protect her from racist and toxic fans after she was cast in the role of Iris West. Patton, who has now played Iris for eight seasons on the long-running Arrowverse series and is set to return for Season 9 in 2023, explained to The Open Up Podcast (via The Wrap) that at the time, it was "free range" for her to be abused by toxic fans without any intervention from the network.

"Now people understand how fans can be racist, especially in genre [film and tv], but at the time it was kind of just like, 'That's how fans are, whatever,'" Patton said. "Even with the companies I was working with, The CW and WB, that was their way of handling it. We know better now. It's not okay to treat your talent that way, to let them go through abuse and harassment. For me in 2014, there were no support systems. No one was looking out for that. It was free range to get abused every single day. There were no social media protocols in place to protect me, so they just let all that stuff sit there."

She added, "It's just not enough to make your lead female and say, 'Look at us, we're so progressive, we checked the box.' It's great, but you've put me in the ocean alone around sharks. It's great to be in the ocean, but I can get eaten alive out there."

Patton also said that the situation contributed to her wanting to quit the show very early on.

"I wanted to leave the show as early as Season 2," Patton said. "I remember being like: 'I can't do this, I'm not gonna make it through. I'm severely unhappy."

Patton ultimately did continue on the series beyond Season 2, and it was recently reported that she has signed on for Season 9 of the series, which will debut midseason next year. As for what to expect next season, series showrunner Eric Wallace has teased a "leveled up" Iris after the character after the events of Season 8.

"That's her greatest strength and it's a superpower that is greater than all of the speed force space powers that The Flash has. That's what's the greatest irony of the show," Wallace told  "That's why we were never worried because we knew where we were driving to as storytellers. I recognized the frustration of the audience, especially when there were episodes where Candice was not in for four in a row. I totally get that. But the point is, we never lost sight of the goal of the end zone, as it were, to use a football metaphor. And I'm incredibly proud of that now, Iris moving forward realizes, 'Wow, The Flash has more limitations than I do and he's a superhero admired by the entire planet. I'm actually cooler than he is."

The Flash recently concluded its eighth season with Season 8 of the series now streaming on Netflix.