Candice Patton on The Flash‘s Iris West: “It’s Ok to See Women Be Angry”

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Candice Patton is not shy about her role as reporter, Iris West, on CW’s The Flash. This may be her first big brush with fame, but she’s handling it like a seasoned pro. She recently sat down with a room full of enthusiastic reporters at Dragon Con, and talked about everything from the role Iris will play on ‘Team Flash’ in Season 2 and coming to terms with people not always liking her character, to how she views internet bullies and being an inspiration to young girls and people of color.

Reporter: In [an earlier] panel you were just talking about how season 2 will be much more of an emotional arc for the West family, and about Momma West. What can you tell us about that arc and Momma West?

Candice Patton: What can I tell you? Momma West has been absent from Iris’ life for a very long time. She’s been told one thing and she comes to find out from her father that that is not true – that her mother has been gone for a completely different reason. And that comes as a shock to Iris, and that’s a thing she kind of has to struggle through for a little bit.

Reporter: There’s a rumor kind of going around that one of the roles Iris is about to step into is almost like a wrangler for the team. Is there any truth to that, or is that something you can talk about?

Patton: Yeah, it’s a semi-truth. I keep getting Google Alerts for that as well – Iris West new Star Labs leader. And I’m like, oh god. You are going to be in for a shock.’ No, she’s not the new Wells of Star Labs. Basically, what I think was being referred to is this idea that Iris is kind of, she’s one of the few people who can really, really talk to Barry, and rally him when he needs to be rallied. And there comes a point very early on in season 2 that she needs to do that with Barry and kind of 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 kind of tells them, you know, we’re a team and we have to fight and save the city. So that’s kind of her role in terms of being a leader in that sense.

But I was saying in [an earlier] panel, Iris is an iconic reporter and journalist, and that’s how we know her from the comic books, and I think that’s more of her role that we’ll see in season 2. We’ll see her kind of step into that and be a kick-ass reporter, which she is.

Reporter: And speaking of that, now that Iris is on Team Flash, how does that affect her job at the newspaper since they’re probably going to push towards that a little bit?

Patton: Yeah, I don’t know. It’s nice having Iris finally be in the know because she can – there’s no secrets being held from her, and she’s not getting in the way, and she can kind of use her assets. 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. So yeah, that’s pretty much all I can say about that.

Reporter: Are there any scenes in season 2 where Iris saves the day?

Patton: Um, Yes. There are – There are several that I’ve shot already, which is cool. Iris, even in season 1 we saw her as tough and kind of a bad-ass. And the more we can see of that – she took down the Clock King, she knocked out Peekaboo with a wrench, and there’s more of that happening in season 2. I will tell you there’s one scene where she ends up jumping out of a building, like out of a window. So there’s a lot of cool, fun, kick-ass stuff for her, yeah.

Reporter: Have you been having fun doing more of the stunt work aspect of it?

Patton: Yeah. It’s never too heavy. You know, we have contracts which 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 cannot take credit for a lot of that. I wish I could, but she makes me look great, so. But yeah, the more of it, I like. I like doing that kind of stuff, even the little bit that they let me do. I love doing it. It’s a challenge and it’s really fun for me as an actor.

Reporter: What’s your process? How do you get into the character?

Patton: You know, 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, you know. It’s not something I have to come to work and really think about, because I live with Iris every single day – 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 script, knowing my lines, and then, um, I don’t know. When you work with actors like Jesse Martin and Grant Gustin, I was saying 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 and we 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.

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.

Reporter: How does Iris deal with the loss of Eddie? And how does her relationship with Barry evolve now that we know that they’re end game?

Patton: Yeah. It’s interesting. Obviously she’s devastated that she lost Eddie. She loved him, and she loved him until the last moment. And I think we saw that when she was holding on to his body. We pick up season 2, I mean there’s flashbacks to the singularity, but we’re kind of picking up six months later, so she’s had time to grieve. Obviously, you don’t get over someone that you love in 6 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.

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. 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. And Barry and Iris, it’s one of those things – will they, won’t they? We’re hoping to have 6, 7 seasons, so I think it might take a while for those West/Allen fans.

Reporter: Yeah, the West/Allen shippers, they – are you aware of the Twitter following? They’re brutal.

Patton: Brutal?

Reporter: Yes. You can’t say anything mildly negative, or if they misconstrue it. Have you noticed any of this? You have, like, a Britney Spears army.

Patton: I mean, I think, I don’t – to answer your question, I’m mostly unaware of it because I try to stay off of – in terms of reading comments. You just learn as any kind of public figure to not engage in that kind of stuff. But as far as West/Allen fans, I think it comes from a sense of really wanting people to respect that iconic relationship. 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 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.

Reporter: Could you elaborate on what is your take on social media’s interpretation of Iris West and using these trending hashtags. And how they react to fans online, and not being so critical and abusive of fans, but enjoying the show like the rest of us.

Patton: Yeah, that’s tricky. This is my first big show, and it’s also a show that has a huge social media following. And with that comes a lot of polarizing opinions. And when you choose to be on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, I am fully aware I’m going to be bombarded with all sorts of love, hate, somewhere in between. And it can be quite frustrating, and to be honest it was very frustrating in the beginning – to feel like people didn’t understand your character, or were not rooting for your character. Or whatever, and I’m sure we’ve all felt this way all of us as actors with our characters. And then time goes on and you sort of stop giving a crap. I don’t care if you don’t like my character. I care about doing a good job. I don’t write the show. All I can do is do the best with what’s written and that’s what I show up to work and do.

It’s the same with any character. Villains aren’t loved all the time, but no one cares. You do what’s written and you do the best you can with that. I know the fandom, any fandom on TV, there’s a sense of divisiveness and that’s frustrating. I don’t control that, unfortunately. I wish people could – it’s hard because you want people to be attached to your show and attached to your characters, and love them. But there’s this thing with the internet where you can socially bully and use your favorite TV show to do that. And that’s unfortunate. I don’t really know how to answer that question, because I’m still learning to deal with it. And my way of dealing with it is to not deal with it often. I try and come from a place of positivity. Just in general on the internet, that’s how I’ve always used it before I was famous. I don’t say anything negative. There’s no reason to do that, I think. And I wish that more fans would have that attitude.

Reporter: How are you dealing with the opposite of that – being an inspiration to a lot of young people and women your age?

Patton: Wow, yeah. 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 – I’ve only learned those things from other women that I’ve watched my entire life – and my mother. 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. And it’s not something that I take lightly. It’s not something that I am unaware of. I wear that badge proudly.

Reporter: It sounds like you may be in the lab more often now? Do you get to interact with Caitlin more? Because I mean, female friendships are not something that are really on the show – it seems like it’s a boy’s club. How will your relationship with her – your friendship, develop?

Patton: Yeah, I think it’s just hard when you only have 2 female characters on the show. And I think we’re remedying that this season with a lot of other female characters – Patty, and Linda Park 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 – caught myself almost saying something…. [LAUGHTER] 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 2, which I’m excited about. They work together, and they are both very strong willed women and they support each other. And I think that’s a great message for people to see.

Reporter: Is there any relationship in particular, now that you’re a part of the team, that you’ve seen grow in season 2 and you really like?

Patton: That’s a great question. [PAUSE] No. I wish I could say – I mean, I think there’s a little small dynamics 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.

Reporter: So, Wally West is going to be introduced this upcoming season. So what kind of interaction will we see between Iris and Wally?

Patton: I don’t know. I’ve read nothing – there are no scripts out about that. He’s not even on our show yet. He doesn’t start shooting, I believe, 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.

Reporter: Does that mean you also don’t know if he will be gay in the TV show? Because his current incarnation is black and also gay in the comics, and I think that would be really important. Just as important as making him black, it’s also important to have such a big superhero like the Flash, he’s the third Flash, also gay.

Patton: Yeah. I hear you, I completely co-sign that. 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.

Reporter: Do you get to cross over into any of the other shows?

Patton: Not that I’m aware of. There are crossovers that will be happening in season 2. You know we’ve got Legends [of Tomorrow] on the air coming up, and Arrow, and Flash. It’s a nice little tornado that could happen. But as far as my character, I haven’t heard anything about that. I would die to do that. I think it would be great to see Iris maybe go report in Starling City or somewhere. But I have heard nothing about that. But we’ll see – you never know.

Reporter: Just for fun… If Iris were to be affected by the particle accelerator, and made into a meta-human, what would you like her superpower to be?

Patton: Something with her eyes. You know, I think that the name Iris is a very poignant name that’s been given to her, and I would love to see her, I don’t know – I don’t know. What comes out of your eyes?

Audience: Lasers!

Patton: Yes, lasers! That would be awesome.

Reporter: You know, one of the things I really appreciated about season 1, and Iris West, was a very complicated female supporting character in a superhero show. That’s something superhero comic books are still trying to catch up with. You played a lot of – there’s a lot of facets to your role. You know you’re a cop’s daughter, a cop’s boyfriend, a superhero confidant. Which one of those – and there are even more stuff you did. Bad-ass reporter, even really good barista, let’s be honest! And there were even some facets I’m not naming. Which one of those was your favorite, and which one was the hardest for you – you felt was for you to capture?

Patton: That is a very, very good question. 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.

Eris Walsh (@SheGeeksBlog) is obsessed with Batman, Neil Gaiman, chemistry, Doctor Who, and baseball. She also enjoys scouring conventions for fantastic examples of cosplay craftsmanship and discussing role-playing games (both table top and LARP), comics, movies, etc. with other enthusiasts. Eris can also be found on her blog She-Geeks, where she writes about geek stuff; On Comicosity, where she posts comic book reviews; and on the Krewe du Who community webpage, where she posts weekly reviews of current Doctor Who episodes.

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