Candice Patton is fighting against injustices both on and offscreen.
The actress, who portrays reporter Iris West on The CW's The Flash, feels proud to embody a character that is always "fighting for what's right."
In her real life, Candice is using her platform to speak out for better representation for Black women in Hollywood. "I've never been a person who could keep my mouth shut for too long, especially when it comes to injustice," she tells E! News for our "Ones to Watch" series during Black History Month.
She says she wants to create change in the entertainment industry, even when it feels "unsafe" to "push" for inclusivity.
Her role, which was originally white in the comic books, was reimagined as an African American woman for the small screen. But, Candice explains, it's not good enough to simply cast a non-white actor if you really want to make a difference.
"It's not enough to just place a Black actor on a show and say, ‘Look, we checked the box. We have a Black female lead,'" she tells E! News. "We have to ensure that she is safe in the workplace, that she is protected online by harassment, bullying, threats."
She says creative teams need to make sure that the talent has a hair and makeup crew "that makes them feel confident going in front of the camera," as well as a lighting team that knows how to properly work with Black skin.
In the same vein, Candice wants Iris West to authentically reflect real experiences of Black women. When the 32 year old began embracing more Black hairstyles—from braids to natural curls—as an adult, she says it influenced how she thought the character should look onscreen.
"[I've been] fighting for that on my show, saying, 'I want to see Iris with her naturally curly hair. Like, get out of the shower, that's what my hair looks like.' At some point on the show, we have to show that," the star says. "So even using my voice to do that now, I'm constantly evolving more and more into my Blackness. I've learned to be this way and I'm proud of that."
Despite progress being made, she knows she has to continue to push for representation across the board, including behind the camera.
"It's that much more infuriating that our experiences and our traumas are not being validated and heard," The Game alum says. "It's a very traumatizing thing to be a woman in such a male-dominated world, and then also to be a Black woman in a what often feels like a very white supremacist nation."
She believes the nationwide protests during the summer of 2020 were "a culmination of a lot of people and especially people of color saying, 'Enough is enough.' We will not take it anymore." She adds, "I'm really proud when I look back at last summer, because I think it opened a lot of people's eyes who were unaware of white supremacy in our country and didn't have to see it for what it was."
As Candice puts it, "For the first time, we have to realize maybe this is who we are. And that's OK. It's OK to recognize that maybe we are not the best of who we want to be, but until we recognize that, we cannot change and become a better nation."
According to Candice, helping to make such waves are Vice President Kamala Harris, who was sworn in last month as the first woman, first Black American and first Asian American to assume the job, and superstars like Beyoncé and Rihanna, who prove there is not a single standard of beauty.
The Texas native notes, "When you start to see all these women, the Beyoncés, the Rihannas, with their wider noses and fuller lips and big hips and big booties... you're like, 'Wait, she looks real good, and I got that, too, so I must look good!'"
Watch her full interview above, and tune in to the season seven premiere of The Flash on March 2 on The CW.