Jessica Parker Kennedy Candice Patton the flash

The Flash Cast Talked to Us About the Importance of Representation and Their 100th Episode

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Last night’s episode of The Flash was exciting for many reasons. For one, it was episode 98 of the series and set up some big pieces for the milestone 100th episode, which will air in two weeks. This included the long-awaited return of Caitlyn’s (Danielle Panabaker) super chill alter-ego, Killer Frost.

The episode featured two storylines about strong, intelligent women finding their power and dealing with their past in different ways. It was fun as we watched Cecile (Danielle Nicolet) get her groove back with the help of Ralph (Hartley Sawyer), and deeply emotional for for Caitlyn. The fact that two women were its emotional center isn’t something that should go unremarked.

From the beginning, The Flash has been a touchstone for diversity in many ways, and as the cast gathered last weekend in Vancouver to celebrate reaching the 100-episode mark, The Mary Sue chatted with them about what being part of such a diverse cast has meant.

Reaching 100 episodes was “Surreal,” said Panabaker. “I never thought that this would be my life.” She shared that the show will “really take the time to slow down and explore the relationship between Caitlyn and Killer Frost, and how they feel about each other. Obviously, Caitlin missed Killer Frost. Now, coexisting will present a challenge for them.”

When asked about what it means to play a woman in STEM in such a long-running show, she was effusive: “I feel grateful. I was always teased when I was younger for being a nerd. I love that there’s a woman out there that kids as they watch Flash can look up and say: ‘I want to do what she does, I want to be a scientist; I want to be a doctor.’”

Seeing herself onscreen was something that Danielle Nicolet didn’t have growing up. When asked about what it meant to portray a strong, black superheroine, she said,

“It means everything. I grew up in a television world where I didn’t see very many people that looked like the woman that I wanted to be when I grew up, and so, for me to know that I get be that for kids … I get to portray a woman who is in a strong, kind, loving relationship, who is educated and smart and the district attorney, and on top of it she’s like a super hero? Honestly, more than I ever could have asked.”

cisco ramon in the flash

Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon. (image: Katie Yu/The CW)

Playing the role of Cisco Ramon had a slightly different affect on Carlos Valdes, who became aware of the impact of portraying a Latinx character only after the show began:

“When I first started doing the show and I started hearing from people what a positive thing it was to see someone like me up on TV screen, I didn’t know how to respond to it. It was sort like a responsibly I didn’t ask for … Over time, I started realizing just how important this is.

“I used to be very naïve going up, I used to think that I could play any role that I wanted to … As I got older, I found that the way that I look is a literal limitation to what I can do as an actor. And so, I think … playing this character over the last five years has definitely been a growing experience, a learning experience, insofar as learning how to accept and embrace the importance of what it is I’m doing.”

For the first four years of its run, The Flash lagged slightly behind in the Arrowverse by not having a major LGBTQ+ character, although Police Captain David Singh was gay. That changed this season with the revelation that Nora, Barry and Iris’s daughter from the future, was queer. Jessica Parker Kennedy not only looks like she could really be Barry and Iris’s kid (something Grant Gustin himself gushed over on the carpet), but she’s brought innocence and spunk to Nora that’s fun to watch.

The Flash -- "O Come, All Ye Faithful" -- Image Number: FLA507a_0042b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Candice Patton as Iris West - Allen and Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West - Allen -- Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW -- © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Candice Patton as Iris West-Allen and Jessica Parker Kennedy as Nora West-Allen. (image: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW)

“I think it’s really important to have LGBTQ community a part of the shows,” Parker Kennedy related, having also portrayed a queer woman in her previous series, Black Sails. “Anytime a character is going through something that’s more similar to what you’re going through it’s relatable, and there’s so many people right now that are going through a lot in the LGBT community, so I’m proud to be … someone who’s representing that. It’s just nice to have someone to relate to on TV, I think.”

Perhaps no one from the cast of The Flash has been more targeted or more vocal as a person of color than Candice Patton (Iris West). Patton became an instant icon and an instant lightning rod for racist attacks from the moment she was cast as Iris West, Barry’s love interest and eventual wife. (By the way, I asked Grant Gustin how “WestAllen” was doing, and he shared that they’re strong and steady at the moment, which has been “a nice change of pace.”)

For Patton, being Iris hasn’t always been easy, but it was worth it:

“It’s been a rollercoaster. It comes with a lot of backlash, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s been probably the most important thing to me about this job. I’m grateful for the job and playing Iris West, but the thing I will remember and take away from this job is the impact it’s had on the young women of color watching themselves onscreen—maybe for the first time in a super hero film or TV, and seeing themselves as the ingenue and being desirable and being the lead … which is something we don’t always see ourselves as.

“For me to have the opportunity to play that is amazing, and I hope that it encourages and inspires other young women.”

Patton takes that role very seriously, and in the past year, she teamed up with Caity Lotz and other Arrowverse stars to launch Shethority as a platform to empower women and other marginalized voices. Patton and her costars all know the importance of representation and what it means to be role models. Audiences are certainly grateful we’ve had them for 100 episodes, and we look forward to many more.

The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8:00 on The CW.

(featured image: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW)

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