Candice Patton Calls out The CW for Not Handling Racist 'The Flash' Viewers

Candice Patton has said The CW and Warner Bros. neglected to protect her from racist and hateful fans after she debuted as Iris West on The Flash. During a recent appearance on The Open Up Podcast, Patton revealed that she received a constant barrage of online harassment shortly after her debut on the show.

The actor said that as a Black woman, she felt "responsibility" for the role and faced "backlash" from fans who "can be racist." Despite playing Iris for eight seasons, Patton claimed neither the network nor the studio had any measures to shield her from abusive viewers on social media.

"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."

"It's just not enough to make me your lead female and say, 'Look at us, we're so progressive, we checked the box,'" Patton continued. "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 star noted that she needs people in positions of power who understand her experience and the experience of Black women and 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." As the harassment worsened while shooting Season 2 of the show, Patton said she contemplated leaving and was "severely unhappy." 

"I remember being like, 'I can't do this. I'm not going to make it through. I don't want to be here,'" Patton recalled. Still, she remarked that she continued to observe how the network or studio did not protect her, nor was she treated by her co-workers as equally as her white colleagues. 

She stated that others in her workplace did not "help" her. "At the time, it was kind of like, 'Yeah, that's how fans are, but whatever,'" Patton said in the episode.

The performer also alleged she was initially not followed on Instagram by the official The Flash account. "I remember asking my publicist, I was like, 'Do you think you could get The Flash account to follow me?'" she recounted. "Back when I cared about that s– and wanted to be included." Despite feeling unsupported, Patton said she chose to stay because of contractual obligations and her sense of "huge responsibility," adding, "My fans loved this character."

"It was such an iconic casting, such an iconic role, and I knew how much this meant to so many people that I felt a responsibility to stay in a space and a place that was probably very toxic for my mental health," she explained. However, Patton continued to emphasize the importance of protection, adding that in real life, "If I get pulled over at 2 a.m. in Jackson, Mississippi, by a white cop, do you think he gives a s– that I'm Candice Patton from The Flash? It doesn't matter."

"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."

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Patton has spoken out about clashing with The CW in the past. In a June 2021 interview with HypeBae, Haley described being "afraid to speak up" when the studio would not reimburse her for using a hair salon in Los Angeles after she couldn't find a suitable one on location in Vancouver.

According to the actress, her experience on The Flash has improved over time. Patton is returning for the series' ninth season but said she is unsure if the upcoming season will be her last. Along with Grant Gustin and Danielle Panabaker, she is one of the series' only remaining original cast members.