With the success of The CW’s The Flash, the cast of the show has been launched into pop culture. While Grant Gustin leads the show as Barry Allen, Candice Patton’s Iris West has stood out as an influential character and fan favorite. We attended Northern Fancon last month and had the opportunity to attend Candice’s panel where she spoke a little bit about her life, about her character’s relationship to Barry Allen, what kinds of hopes she had for Candice, what taking on a character like Iris was like, and her love of Batman.
During college, she found her start in television after participating in a soap opera contest for The Young and The Restless. She won the contest and ended up being casted in five episodes during 2004-2005. Although Candice was now officially on television, this was far from her first brush with acting. With a BFA in Theater, she graduated summa cum laude and had been in productions since she was young, her very first production was in Charlotte’s Web when she was about 11 as the spider.
When asked if she would like to take the stage again, she responds,”In my dreams, I would absolutely kill to be back to the theater for sure.” And while she hasn’t gotten a chance to see many productions in Vancouver while shooting The Flash, she did get an opportunity to watch Book of Mormon with co-stars Carlos Valdez and Jesse Martin. “It was amazing. No one told me what that show was about. […] I’m not into musicals, I have no desire to be on a Broadway musical show, but no one told me what Book of Mormon was going to be about. It’s kind of vulgar! I was not prepared for that. It was good, it was good, but it was just really vulgar.”
While she caught the acting bug early, she did not read comic books at all as a child, “That was not something that was available to me as a child, but I was very much into cartoon superheroes.” She talks about her love of Batman tv shows and movies, calling Bruce Wayne a personal favorite and Catwoman being her favorite female superhero/supervillain (depending on how you look at it). “I was always more of a DC fan, for sure. But reading comics was something that I got into more once I booked the job, because I really wanted to know more about The Flash, a superhero that I didn’t really know much about.”
This love of Batman relates much to her own character from The Flash, she explains the reason why she likes Batman is because he is a character that doesn’t possess superpowers. He’s inspiring, “He hasn’t been struck by lightning, he didn’t come from Krypton, he is a man who uses what he has to help his city. I think that’s something very tangible for anyone watching Batman. It inspires you to know that whatever you are doing in your life, if you are a teacher, or a fireman, or you do tax returns, there’s something that you have available to you, that you can use in your life to make someone’s life better. You don’t have to be the Flash, you don’t have to come from Krypton, you have everything you need to make someone’s life better, and that’s inspiring to me.”
When asked whether she wants Iris to have superpowers like many of the characters, she talks again about the ability to change the world without superpowers, and emphasizes that she has no desire to get superpowers. “Iris doesn’t have superpowers, but she’s always going to fight in some way. She’s always in the thick of it without superpowers. I think that’s a strong message to send to the audience, that you don’t have to be The Flash or Batman or Superman to do the right thing and to change the world in which you live. We have men and women in service, those are real superheroes. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to get struck by lightning to do great things.”
Within the show, Candice sees Iris and Joe as a representation of the audience, and again being able to change the city just as a human and doing the right thing and sticking up for what is right. “I think it’s really important on superhero shows to have humans. Otherwise you lose this idea of being superhuman. The Flash is only super because he’s saving people who need his help. If everyone’s a superhero and we make a show about superheroes we kind of lose that heart and that tethered feeling to real life.”
When asked if any characteristics of Iris reflect on her personal life, she praises her own characters bravery and strength, saying that Iris is more put together than she is. Iris is a well written woman, “I think, admittedly so, I’m not where she is. But she inspires me in the same way that she inspires you. […] Going through the episodes, it leaves me feeling like if Iris can do this and be this brave despite what she’s going through, then I can get through what I am going through.”
The Flash has danced around Barry and Iris together for the past two seasons, and just when the two seemed to finally get together, it looks like the events of season two might just throw everything into confusion again. When asked if Candice wants Barry and Iris to become a couple, she answers yes, “I think just my research in the comics and knowing how much Barry and Iris kind of support each other, I like that storyline. I think it makes a lot of sense that Barry, while he has superpowers, needs the people around him to support him and pick him when he just feels like giving up and giving in.”
She refers to the multiple times that her character has been called Barry’s lightning rod. “He [Barry] constantly says things like, ‘there wouldn’t be a Flash without you, Iris.’ So I think it’s really important that no matter how big and mighty The Flash is, he’s got a woman beside him that helps him be the best man that he can be. That’s an honor for me to play. I would like to see the canon relationship come to fruition, and we’ve been hinting at that since day one of The Flash.” With all of the signs pushing them together, she says it’s just a matter of time before they finally get their act together.
Some naysayers might refer to Barry and Iris being brother and sister, but Candice abhors the term. To her, comparing them to siblings makes potential romance seem illicit and wrong. “I think it’s important to remember that Joe West did a selfless thing by taking this young boy in when he needed a family, and giving him a home to live in. That didn’t make him and Iris brother and sister, they were already best friends. It gave him a safe place to stay with people who truly loved him and wanted the best for him. That’s really the extent of their relationship, that they were best friends and have always supported each other.”
And while she loves Barry and Iris together, she affirms that her storyline is more than just the romance. “Because women, we are not just about the men that we’re associated with, we’re so much more than that; we are intellectuals, we are powerful, we have our own storylines that have nothing to do with men, and I think if we express them on tv shows then it helps young women who are watching that you don’t necessarily need to have a man beside you to do great things in this world.” While it’s great to have a Barry Allen, “but Iris West is just fine as her own woman.”
She talked a little bit about where she wanted to see Iris West in the future, citing Iris’s job at Picture News being something that she really wants to see because of Iris’ connection to it within the comics. However she mentions that as an actor, “I try not to put too much expectation on Iris. I’m not a creative, I’m not a writer, I don’t get a lot of say in that. I think it’s always safer when you just ride the ride, when you don’t try to control the ride.”
She had mentioned this earlier when talking about having different expectations for your character than the writers’ plan. “You can get your hopes up that something’s going in the way that you would like, and then to find out that the producers kind of have a different idea can be quite disappointing. So, I just go where the writing takes me. I have no control over any of that. Everything I do is because the writing has put me there.”
Although that’s not to say that she’s been pushing the creators for more spoilers on her character. While some actors might want to know the whole season arc for their character, Candice appreciates a more organic approach. “I’m not interested in knowing what’s happening for my character down the road, I kind of focus on what’s really happening right now.”
This left much to the imagination for the fans when they asked her about potentially seeing Kid Flash in the future or perhaps seeing Cisco using more of his powers. While she was unsure on the future of Kid Flash, she did say that any teasers that were dropped by the writing were for a reason. “I don’t think we introduce anything or tease anything without the intention of seeing that through at some point. So I think teasing it is our way of saying it’s possible, that it’s going to come to fruition at some big point.”
Although she does not take part in the writing for the show, working on The Flash for the last two years has given her a different perspective on filming in television. She’s loved film and television since she was young, but “Now when I watch shows, I’m looking for how it’s directed, the lighting, the acting, the story, the writing. It just informs me as an actor and I take that stuff with me and I bring it to The Flash. I’m informed by Game of Thrones, I’m informed by Homeland, I’m informed by Mr. Robot. All of these great shows, they all inspire me to be better at what I do.”
While she’s been loving her time on The Flash tv show, she did get some questions about the upcoming Flash movie by the film division of DC. This has been a conversation that we’ve seen a lot since the announcement of Ezra Miller as the film’s Barry Allen. “Personally, I never went into the show thinking that they would put me in the film version as Iris West. I’m very happy that I get to be in your living rooms every single week. That’s something that film can’t necessarily do. I love that you guys have grown with us, The Flash and Iris. I think there’s room for everyone. There will be fans of the show and fans of the TV show, I think there’s room for both to exist. I don’t see why not.”
But she does smile to the fans and shrug, admitting, “Obviously I’m biased, I think Grant Gustin is The Flash. I think it’s going to be hard to top that. But, I think there’s room for everyone.”
It remains to be seen how well the film will do and whether it will include any classic characters from The Flash comics. For now, we’re content with DCTV’s Iris West. When talking about the audition for the character of Iris, she expresses a deep connection to the character early on. She had gone into the audition feeling that the part was hers, “There was something about The Flash, something about Iris, something about the story, that I knew I wanted to be a part of.”
She’s certainly been a large part of The Flash‘s major success. Her role as Iris, portraying the character as an African American woman brought about a lot of conversation when the show first came out. Although it brought a lot of buzz to the show, Candice insists that it isn’t something they talk about, and they don’t make it an issue. “I think other people make it an issue, like, ‘oh my gosh Iris West is black’. That was more of what the media and long time comic book fans were talking about when I first got cast. But for them [Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kriesberg, Goeff Johns] it only made sense to make these comic books more diverse, and make them look more like the world in which we live in.”
It isn’t a dialogue they talk about. “Iris West is first and foremost a strong woman, her ethnicity, her color is quite irrelevant. We don’t discuss that on the show or at work, which I think is how it should be done.” She is gracious and humble when talking about the awesome fact that her role as Iris is changing and shaping the nature of the story, and that many people in this generation will remember Iris as an African American. “They’re starting to look more and more like the world that we live in. I’m honored and thrilled.”
In summary, Candice Patton is an incredibly well-spoken actress. Her energy and her charisma exude from her presence on stage, and her intelligence in speaking about her character truly makes her an inspiring person. The convention offered fans an up-close and personal talk with her. “You [the fans] are the reason I come to do these conventions. […] No amount of money that can replace the fact that this show, my character, this story, The Flash are inspiring people to be better. There’s no price tag you can place on that, so thank you.”
You can catch our full audio recording of the panel below, and we apologize in advanced about any audio interruptions during the recording.