The actor says The CW and Warner Bros. TV didn't protect her from "abuse and harassment."
We Are The Flash

When Candice Patton debuted as Iris West on The Flash in 2014, her groundbreaking casting pushed representation in comic book adaptations forward in massive ways, as her character was originally portrayed as white in the source material. But while the actor made history onscreen, her experience offscreen dealing with backlash from toxic and racist "fans" online made her want to leave the series after only two seasons.

In a new interview with The Open Up Podcast, Patton detailed the extent of the "abuse and harassment" she received for playing Iris. "It was hard in that aspect, the on-set aspect. I wanted to leave the show as early as season 2," she says. "I remember being like, 'I can't do this, I'm not going to make it through, I'm severely unhappy.'" 

The Flash
Candice Patton and Grant Gustin on 'The Flash'
| Credit: Katie Yu/The CW

Patton said she felt a responsibility to create "spaces for women of color" in the superhero genre but her own well-being suffered as a result. "It's a dangerous place to be in when you're one of the first, and you're facing backlash for it and there's no help," she says. "Now people understand a little better. They understand how fans can be racist — especially in genre [adaptations] — and misogynistic. But at the time it was kind of like, 'Yeah, that's how fans are, but whatever.'"

Patton claims that The CW and Warner Bros. TV, the network and studio behind The Flash, didn't properly protect her from the casting backlash. "Even with the companies I was working with, The CW and WB, that was their way of handling it," she adds. "We know better now that it's not okay to treat your talent that way, and to let them go through this abuse and harassment. But for me in 2014, there were no support systems. No one was looking out for that. It was just 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."

She continues, "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." That's why, she adds, "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, '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 also explains that she saw her white costars treated differently than she was on set, which only added to her feelings. "It was more about the protocols in place and the things I see happening for my white counterparts that's not happening to me," she says. "Seeing how I was treated differently than other people, seeing how I'm not protected by the network and the studio, those were the things that not necessarily hurt me but frustrated me."

Ultimately Patton decided to stay on The Flash — currently airing its eighth season — because she felt a responsibility to the fans who she represented and to portray the historic, inclusive role. While she will be returning for season 9, Patton said she isn't sure if that one will be her last.

Representatives for The CW did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.

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We Are The Flash
The Flash

After the success of Arrow, Barry Allen (a.k.a. the Flash) gets his own CW treatment in this comic-themed spin-off.

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