CANDICE PATTON ON PLAYING IRIS WEST AND FIGHTING FOR DIVERSITY IN HOLLYWOOD

Candice - The Untiled Magazine - Photography by Jeaneen Lund

Candice wears antique earrings from NEIL LANE and a gown by GAURI & NAINIKA from Marilyn Heston.

“Knowing that they were open to changing the ethnicity of the hero’s love interest was a big deal. I knew this role would be important in changing what an ingénue and a desirable romantic love interest looks like on television.” -Candice Patton

When Candice Patton got the call to play Iris West, the leading lady of current television hit, The Flash, there was no way she could turn it down. The actress, who has also had parts in Entourage, Heroes, One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy, and CSI Miami, knew that the role was more than just a career stepping-stone, it was also a chance to take a stand. As a black actress playing a part that was traditionally imagined for a white female she has encountered racism – both blatant and covert – but she channels the strength of her character in order to do her part in changing the face of Hollywood, boldly proclaiming: “I have to be strong and continue to deliver, because this is bigger than me. It’s not just about this role, its about the landscape of film and TV. It’s about the young girls coming after me. I need to keep that door open for them. To show up at work and do my best, and change and impact as many minds as I can.”

Candice attributes her perseverance to a Texas upbringing with parents who raised her to never give up. This attitude has taken her all the way from her first role on soap opera, The Young and The Restless, to a starring role on primetime television. In typical Southern fashion, she is not one to stay silent on issues near and dear to her heart and feels that talking and bringing more attention to societal problems, like the lack of diversity in Hollywood, is the route to enacting change in movies, television, and the world beyond.

The Untitled Magazine’s style director, Phillip Bloch, sat down with Candice to talk about her career, Hollywood controversies, astrology, and more. See the full interview and check out the exclusive photo-shoot below.


Candice - The Untiled Magazine - Photography by Jeaneen Lund

Left page: Candice wears a faux fur jacket by MADDERSON LONDON and a sequined zebra jumpsuit by RANI ZAKHEM from Jimmy’s New York. Right page: Candice wears a cape by KAYAT, a leather bra by RUBIN SINGER from Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, lace pants by GIAMBATTISTA VALLI from Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, a bracelet and silver pin by NEIL LANE, and shoes by JEROME C. ROUSSEAU.

Phillip Bloch: How have the personality traits of your close family members and your relationship with them helped shape your life and your career path?

Candice Patton: My dad’s a tough guy. He spent most of his career as an FBI Agent. I remember him driving me a few hours to an audition in Oklahoma when I was younger. It didn’t go well and I was really disappointed and he said “Candice, just because you’re shot, doesn’t mean you’re going to die.” That attitude – to keep going and that it isn’t over until it’s over – was always instilled in me by my parents. I think that level of perseverance is necessary for this business.

PB: You were born in Mississippi and grew up in Texas. What are some of the traits and values you have that are unique to being a Southern Girl? Do Texas girls do it bigger and better?

CP: I think I learned a bit of southern charm while in Texas. Southern girls have a perfect blend of salty and sweet. We can be as lovely as you want us to be, but back us into a corner and it’s stormy weather honey! I learned to love the outdoors, playing around in dirt, climbing trees, camping with friends, football games, shooting skeet, wide open spaces, and bbq.

PB: Soap operas are often criticized for being corny but many of Hollywood’s biggest actors and actresses started out on them. Your first role was on The Young and The Restless. What did you take away from the experience of acting on a soap opera?

CP: Although I wasn’t in soaps very long, I have nothing but respect for soap actors. They are shooting tons of dialogue a day. Production is moving so fast. There’s a discipline to that kind of work and you can’t come unprepared.

PB: You have appeared on so many great shows, Entourage, Heroes, One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI Miami, and more. Which one was your favorite experience?

CP: Entourage was a fun set. I loved that experience. It was definitely a male heavy set, but they were so great! Looking back on all of these guest spots, I was just so hungry for the next job that it was hard to enjoy the moment. But Entourage being one of the firsts, that will always leave an imprint. I’ve since reconnected with a fellow actor and director from Entourage while working on The Flash, which also makes it special. It feels like a full-circle moment.

PB: Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?

CP: I have a big talent crush on Cate Blanchett. Dream big!

PB: You play Iris West in The Flash. What was it about the character that made you want to play her and what did you have to bring to the role?

CP: Iris West in the comics is so integral to Barry Allen’s story. The “Lois Lane” of The Flash, how could I say no? Especially as a black female actress, knowing that they were open to changing the ethnicity of Barry Allen, the hero’s, love interest was a big deal. I knew this role would be important, even in a small way, in changing what an ingénue and a desirable romantic love interest looks like on television. On top of that Iris is a badass, she has so much strength of character.

Candice - The Untiled Magazine - Photography by Jeaneen Lund

Left page: Candice wears earrings and ring by NEIL LANE and a white halter gown by GAURI & NAINIKA from Marylin Heston. Right page: Candice wears a shirt by LANVIN from Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, earrings by NEIL LANE, and pants by BRUNELLO CUCINELLI from Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills.

PB: #Oscarssowhite made racism and sexism in the workplace even more apparent, in Hollywood and beyond. You and I watched the Oscars together. Do you think any of the current hype around these issues will change anything?

CP: Anyone in the business knows that these issues have been prevalent for a long time. Progress has been made, but it’s slow and much more is needed. The more we talk about it, the more we call it out for what it is, and the more we support diverse works of art – the more we can impact change. We have to use our money to start demanding a more diverse landscape. We have to have more diverse leaders at the heads of networks, and studios, and casting, and writers’ room. I am lucky, Greg Berlanti, our executive producer works very hard to enact changes – more diverse casts, more women directors, etc. We need more people in charge who are willing to change the landscape. Diversity in Hollywood can bring about more unique stories and more stories that reflect the world that we really live in.

PB: As a female actress, what are you doing to bring about change in your career and in the world?

CP: Just being able to play Iris West is putting me in a position to impact change. She is such an iconic character and so many people will know her and remember her as a black woman. Playing this role, I sometimes get blatant racism and the even more painful and complicated non-blatant racism. But, I gladly put on my armour each day and take it. I have to be strong and continue to deliver, because this is bigger than me. It’s not just about this role, its about the landscape of film and TV. It’s about the young girls coming after me. I need to make sure I was strong enough to keep that door open for them. To show up at work and do my best, and change and impact as many minds as I can.
We don’t discuss Iris’s blackness. It’s a non-issue. I always say, Iris is so much more than her skin color. And the less we talk about it or make it an issue (especially on a genre show like this), the more we normalize it to an audience that maybe isn’t used to seeing that on screen. She’s written the same way we’d write her if a white actress was playing her. She has the emotions that any woman would have in her circumstance, regardless of color. Now, that doesn’t mean she isn’t black or isn’t a product of being a black woman in this world, its just means those facts don’t change her being a very relatable and lovable everywoman. I am deeply humbled every time someone reaches out to me to say, “I grew  up reading The Flash, I cannot imagine anyone else playing Iris West after seeing you do it.”

PB: What would you tell your 16-year-old self to do differently?

CP: Nothing. That girl was fierce and fearless. I’d tell my current self to be more like my 16-year-old self.

Candice - The Untiled Magazine - Photography by Jeaneen Lund

Candice wears a faux fur jacket by MADDERSON LONDON and a sequined zebra jumpsuit by RANI ZAKHEM from Jimmy’s New York

PB: You and I are both Cancer signs. Do you believe in astrology? If so, what are your best Cancerian traits?

CP: Absolutely. The biggest cancer trait I have is my emotional side. I can be very sensitive. It’s my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. It’s helped me become the actress I am, so I am grateful for that, but, often I have to work to separate my emotions from an event. I feel things very deeply. I’m also very much like the crab. I retreat into my shell often. I probably look really lonely to people on the outside, but there’s no place I’d rather be than alone in my shell.

PB: Can you give us some tips for a fun and sexy summer?

CP: No matter what shape or size you are, no matter how many more pounds you wish you had lost, don’t let that stop you from putting on your swimsuit and having an amazing summer. Give yourself permission to accept yourself right where you are. Don’t let insecurities get in the way of you living your best summer. Also, SPF please!


Photography by Jeaneen Lund
Stylist: Phillip Bloch
Makeup by Tasha Brown for Exclusive Artists Management using Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Hair by Vernon Francois at Jed Root
Assistant Stylists: Jessie Muldrow and Adrell
Special Thanks to Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Jimmy’s New York, and Marylin Heston


 

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