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The Flash‘s Candice Patton Talks About the “Honor” She Feels Playing a Strong, Black Woman Like Iris West

"Young black girls are seeing themselves on TV as leading ladies."

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There have been differing opinions about Iris West on The Flash. Some people think that she’s a great character whose potential is being squandered. Others see failures of hers on the show as indicative of a problem with the character itself. However, one thing that can’t be denied is that The Flash is not only a diverse show, but it’s a show that dares to showcase diversity as a fact, rather than as an anomaly. In an interview with MTV, Candice Patton, who plays Iris West, talks about the impact of Iris being a strong, black woman on television.

She talks about why she thinks fans are so protective of Iris:

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.

Patton then goes on to talk about the impact of her role on both other actors, and on fans – particularly young, black, female fans:

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.

With Iris seemingly getting deeper into the action on The Flash as of last week’s episode, I’m sure that those little black girls are gonna have even more to squee about in future episodes.

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