‘The Flash’ Actor Candice Patton: The CW Didn’t Protect Me Against Racist Fans When Show Started

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Candice Patton said on “The Open Up Podcast” that The CW and Warner Bros. failed to protect her against toxic and racist fans when she debuted as Iris West on “The Flash.” The actor has played Iris for eight seasons and counting, but she revealed that her early days on the show were full of online harassment. According to Patton, neither the network or the studio had any protocols in place to protect her against toxic fans.

“Now people understand how fans can be racist, especially in genre [film and tv], but at the time it was kind of just like, ‘That’s how fans are, whatever,'” Patton said. “Even with the companies I was working with, The CW and WB, that was their way of handling it. We know better now. It’s not ok to treat your talent that way, to let them go through abuse and harassment. For me in 2014, there were no support systems. No one was looking out for that. It was free range to get abused every single day. There were no social media protocols in place to protect me, so they just let all that stuff sit there.”

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Patton continued, “It’s just not enough to make me your lead female and say, ‘Look at us, we’re so progressive, we checked the box.’ It’s great, but you’ve put me in the ocean alone around sharks. It’s great to be in the ocean, but I can get eaten alive out here.”

The actor stressed that “there has to be people in positions of power who understand my experience and understand the Black experience and the Black female experience who can say, ‘Ok she needs protection.’ Any time you hire a minority of any kind you have to be prepared to protect them. In the real world, we are not protected. So just because you put us on a fancy Hollywood set, with the hair and makeup and you assume we’re safe, we are not safe.”

Patton revealed she wanted to leave “The Flash” in Season 2 because the harassment was getting so bad and she was “severely unhappy.” She stayed with the series because she felt a responsibility to her inclusive casting. Still, Patton continued to see how she was not protected by the network or the studio or treated by co-workers the same as her white counterparts.

“If I get pulled over at 2 a.m. in Jackson, Mississippi, by a white cop, do you think he gives a shit that I’m Candice Patton from ‘The Flash’? It doesn’t matter,” Patton added. “We still need protection because the world sees us in a certain way. When I step on a set and everyone working around me is white, I’m not protected and I will never be protected. And that’s not to say everyone has bad intentions, but they have blind spots. That can contribute to my harm. It’s been a learning experience for companies and productions.”

Patton’s experience on “The Flash” has gotten better over the years. The show has been renewed for a ninth season that will debut in the fall. Patton said production starts up this summer, and she’s not yet sure if the new season will be her final outing as Iris West.

Variety has reached out to The CW for further comment.

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