The Flash’s Candice Patton on How She Created Two Versions of Iris West

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Since delving into Earth-2, The Flash is back in top form. Undoubtedly, the heart of the show has proven to be the West family, in particular the journalist and best friend to our titular hero, Iris West, played by Candice Patton. While she was a bit sidelined in the beginning of the season, recent episodes have put her front and center. The highlight thus far has been seeing her Earth-2 doppelgänger, who is not only a badass detective but married to a far meeker, non-superpowered Barry Allen. Vulture spoke to Patton about how much she influences Iris’s characterization, bringing her Earth-2 counterpart to life, and why she admires Zoe Saldana.

I don’t know if this was intentional, but Earth-2 Iris West reminded me a lot of the 1930s screwball heroines played by women like Katharine Hepburn. She is way more assertive and tough than Earth-1 Iris West. How much of this characterization was your own doing versus already in the script?
A lot of it wasn’t written. It was written very similar to Earth-1 Iris. Her being a cop indicated to me she should be pretty tough. The director we had that episode, Millicent Shelton, she was really an advocate for me to be stronger and pushing it further and further [...] which is something I am not used to playing as Iris West. It was definitely something we worked on and created. It was something I had to learn to be comfortable with.

A lot of my scenes are with all guys, and I remember struggling one day being the alpha in the group [...] For the only powerhouse in the room to be a woman, it took some work getting comfortable with that. We definitely found it, and I was pretty happy with it.

Which aspect of Earth-2 Iris West did you have the most fun playing?
She had her own agency. She knew what she wanted to do, she was fearless going after it. And yet at the same time, she was vulnerable and tender in the moments when she needed to be with her father and Barry. It’s nice to see women be able to do both, to be very strong and unapologetic [about it], and being vulnerable when they need to be.

One of my favorite aspects of the Earth-2 episodes was your chemistry with Grant Gustin (Barry Allen/The Flash). I’m curious about how that will affect the dynamics between Earth-1 Barry and Iris going forward, especially considering we haven’t really touched on his feelings for her much this season.
Barry has been involved with Patty [while] Iris has been grieving over the loss of her fiancé Eddie Thawne. They’ve both been on their own romantic paths this season, which has been nice for those two. Once Iris discovers that she and Barry married on Earth-2 — and supposedly are destined to be married in the future, which we saw last season in the newspaper [hologram that Harrison Wells had in his lair] — it starts the wheels [turning] for her. Is it fate? It’ll be interesting to see if Iris and Barry revisit their romantic feelings for each other, which [we] never got a chance to explore.

Iris has a new editor, Scott Evans, who seems like he will complicate things. We were only introduced to him briefly but learned he’s not much of a fan of the Flash. How will Iris’s relationship with Scott develop going forward, especially considering his opinion of the Flash?
I think that’s what makes it difficult for Iris. She wants to be great at her job, and she wants to impress her new editor. But at the same time, his views on the Flash differ greatly from what Iris believes about [him]. What makes it even more difficult is that Iris starts to see that Scott has feelings for her, and maybe she’s interested in him as well. But at the end of the day, she will always be loyal to the Flash and, [as a journalist,] want to paint him as the hero he is. So that’s going to create interesting tension for sure.

How much of an influence overall do you have on Iris’s characterization?
All of it. We know we were hired because [showrunners] Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti saw in our auditions what we could bring to the characters. That took the weight off of if I could bring Iris to life. We have full reign to create these characters and make them come alive. Obviously there are scripts, and we try to adhere to what’s written. But we have a lot of freedom. That’s what’s so nice about having doppelgängers and getting to play other versions of ourselves — it gives us the opportunity as actors to continue to stretch and play and find other versions of Iris. For me, Earth-2 Iris is a lot like her Earth-1 father, Joe West. How strong he was, and clear-headed about things. It was a matter of keeping her strong and being the exact opposite of Earth-2 Barry Allen.

I really liked seeing how Earth-2 Iris was the lead in her relationship.
There are relationships out there like that. Where the man may not necessarily be the vocal leader.

I loved seeing Iris using her investigative skills in regards to Wally and his drag-racing story line in episode 12, “Fastlane.” Can we expect to see any more of Iris using her investigative skills in the same way the rest of this season?
I don’t know. I’m hoping to see that, too. Iris is iconically known as being an ace reporter working alongside Barry in the comics. I love shooting those scenes in Picture News [the newspaper Iris works at in Central City] — it’s where I feel the most confident as Iris West. I can only hope for more of that.

How does Wally and Iris’s relationship continue developing this season now that they are on good terms?
I think Iris is just going to continue to try to support Wally and help him find his place in the West family. And hopefully try to bridge a relationship between him and Barry. She’ll help Wally discover who he really is. He’s still a kid trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. It’ll be interesting for viewers to see how Wally grows into the man he’s supposed to be.

Is there anything you’d like to see for Iris that hasn’t come to pass that you’ve noticed from the comics, or would just make sense with how she’s been developing this season?
I don’t think I have anything specific I have seen from the comics. Everything I love about Iris, we’re slowly getting to. I would love, again, to see her work more in Picture News and work with Team Flash in that way. The thing I love about Earth-1 Iris is that she may not be as obviously strong as Earth-2 Iris, but she’s still quite a strong, determined, fearless woman. What I love about her is when we first met Iris West, she wasn’t off-the-bat strong — she’s learning how to become the woman she’s meant to be.

Are there any plans for Iris to meet her Earth-2 counterpart or any alternate version of herself?
Not that I know of. That would be an interesting dynamic, to see her interact with her Earth-2 doppelgänger and maybe even work alongside her at some point.That’s the cool thing about this show — anything is possible. With multiple timelines, being able to time-travel, and multiple universes, there is so much story available for us.

Going back to Earth-2 Iris West, seeing how great you were at pulling off a tough, badass woman, I’m curious about what kind of roles you’d like to play as an actress you haven’t been able to yet.
I’ve always been attracted to two types of roles: The very indie film roles, and then there is a part of me that loves sci-fi and ass-kicking females. I’ve always loved everything Zoe Saldana’s done from Star Trek to Guardians of the Galaxy, [watching] her be a strong, kickass, black Latina woman. In a way, I can identify with that. Those are the roles I’ve always wanted to play.