The Flash made waves in 2014 by casting Candice Patton, a woman of colour, in the role of Iris West. Find out how Patton has defined the character for a generation.
Candice Patton has played Iris West on CW’s The Flash since the show premiered in 2014. An adaptation of famed DC Comics reporter Iris West-Allen, there are notable differences between Patton’s interpretation and versions of the past.
For example, this was initially a younger version of the character. Thus, Iris was not married to Barry Allen. He was instead raised alongside her as a foster brother from their childhood.
And yes, the obvious: unlike the Caucasian redhead that has existed in print since 1956, Patton is African-American.
From one perspective, Iris had existed for almost six decades before Patton started playing her. For die-hard comic book fans, the Caucasian redhead was all they knew.
Conversely, young television viewers would know Iris as an African-American character.
Deadline reported in February 2014 that Patton joined a cast that already included Jesse L. Martin (Rent, Law and Order).
The veteran actor was cast as her onscreen father, Det. Joe West. However, limiting that as the reason for Patton’s casting is unfair to the actress.
What other reasons did Greg Berlanti and his team have in 2014?
First of all, this series is a different take on The Flash’s origin story. Wally West/Kid Flash is Iris’ brother, rather than her nephew.
Making such a marked change to Iris’ physical appearance was a bold move. That goes without saying. The creators had a chance to put their own stamp on an iconic character.
In the process, Patton became a figurehead to African-American children to have someone representing them a prominent role on a successful, long-running series.
Eric Wallace (Teen Wolf, Eureka) became showrunner of The Flash in 2019, ahead of the sixth season.
Wallace wrote the episode ‘Run, Iris, Run’ in season four. This saw Iris suit up as a speedster after temporarily gaining powers.
Therefore, Wallace’s promotion marked the first time that The Flash had an African-American showrunner.
Additionally, Patton wore her hair naturally in curls for the first time in season six.
Since his appointment as showrunner, Wallace has put significant work into bringing Patton’s Iris closer to her comic book counterpart.
One example is establishing ‘Team Citizen’, Iris’ female co-workers at the Central City Citizen. As a result, Iris’ role in the show has expanded outside of being The Flash’s wife.
The Citizen also allows Iris to follow her journalistic passion. This had been effectively absent since Season 1. It also enables her to contribute naturally to Team Flash without seeming shoehorned.
In the back half of season six, Iris was also effectively the main protagonist in her own, separate storyline.
Iris was pulled through a mirror by Eva McCullough (Efrat Dor) and spent the rest of season six trying to find a way out.
Unfortunately, the storyline ended prematurely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and will be resolved in the distant seventh season.
Nonetheless, the ‘Mirror Mistress’ arc with Iris and Eva showed how far both Patton and the character have come over the past six seasons.
The Flash airs Tuesdays 8/7c on The CW.