The Flash's Candice Patton: "It's About the Story and Race is Irrelevant"

When The Game's Candice Patton was announced as Iris West on The CW's The Flash, a segment of [...]

When The Game's Candice Patton was announced as Iris West on The CW's The Flash, a segment of the fandom was immediately turned off of the news on the grounds that Iris has traditionally been depicted as a white woman with red hair, and Patton is African-American.

Her casting was announced on the heels of rumors (later confirmed) that Michael B. Jordan would play the Human Torch in Josh Trank's reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise, an even more controversial casting decision and one that generated a lot of ugly comments online.

During a Comic-Con International: San Diego roundtable with reporter in support of the show, asked her about the fan reaction and whether it had changed her view of the role or the viewers at all.

How are you finding the fandom so far? Many of our readers objected very strongly to a non-white Iris at first, only to back off when they saw the pilot and how well you worked with Gustin.

Yeah, how amazing is that? But that's the thing -- that's what I was hoping for. Iris is not her ethnicity; she's just not. I know comic book fans have an attachment to these characters and I get it: when you love something so much you kind of want everything to be the way you imagined it. But what I love about Iris and what drew me to her isn't her skin color; it's her heart and her lightness and she's the girl next door and she's fun-loving and I think everyone wants that in their life.

And she's Barry's kind of light at the end of the tunnel. He's dealing with all of these changes and he's dealing with all of these villains and Rogues and it's nice to come home and then there's Iris, the light in his life.

Did you do a lot of research for the role?

I did some research. I went to my local comic book store becuase I felt like that was a good place to start. I had to Google comic book stores because I had no idea where they even were -- and I went in and I was like "Guys, help me. I'm doing this show called The Flash and I'm playing Iris West," and they looked at me like that: "You're playing Iris West? How does...what?"

So I read a couple of comic books just to get the tone of what Barry Allen and The Flash is about and then I kind of trusted the scripts that are being created for the show. Becuase it is an adaptation and I felt like Geoff knew what he was doing and Andrew knows what he's doing and the bulk of that would be in the scripts.

Given the fact that The Flash is making efforts to be more diverse in its casting, you're a strong woman on television  and there's not as many as we'd like to see. Do you feel added pressure?

Uh, no. I try to stay away from that word -- pressure. There's pressure because you want to deliver something that's great for the fans but at the same time you have to kind of trust that the higher-ups hired you for a reason and that you've got what it takes and you just kind of do your best. And you trust the scripts -- I just trust Andrew and Geoff and Greg so much, this is their forte. I'm just invited into this world, so I just take the scripts very seriously and hope everything else falls into place. And it has -- I don't know if you guys have seen the pilot but oh, my God. And episode two is really good -- David Nutter came back. It's just so good. How did I get this job?! I'm at Comic-Con, you guys!

What has been the biggest challenge of taking on this role?

Adjusting to this life. It's interesting. With any other show, people don't know about the story until it airs on TV. The thing about The Flash is it has a built-in fan base. People already know about Barry and Iris and they have their own opinions about it. The day I booked the job and they did the press release and you have hundreds of new followers and thousands of new followers knowing who you are on Twitter, it's like, "Oh, okay. I have to be careful about what I say on Twitter, and I can't do crazy things anymore." I'm learning that it's making me more reclusive and I mean, that's okay. It's an adjustment. I've been looking for this for so long and I've heard no for many years in Los Angeles as many actors do. And finally it's just like, "Yes."

Do you feel like those kind of old-fashioned ideas about race are slowly changing?

Yeah, it's amazing. Ten years ago, I probably wouldn't even be allowed in the room for this cahracter. I think fans want to see themselves represented on TV and I think comic book fans want to see themselves represented in comic books and so for me to even be a part of the shift and the change in that, it's awesome. I know when I booked the role, Andrew told me, "So don't read the comments section. Stay off the Internet for a couple of days," but mostly it's been supportive. It's an interesting thing. I would be silly to say that racial issues are not still prevalent in the world -- they are. But like you said, I think five minutes into watching the show, it's so irrelevant and that's what counts and more TV should embrace that and more networks should embrace the fact that it's about the story and race at the end of the day, it's really irrelevant.