Josie and the Pussycats on Riverdale.
CW actresses Candice Patton and Ashleigh Murray have one major thing in common. They have both played classic comic book characters, both traditionally portrayed as white, as women of colour. And both have had to deal with backlash for it.
Appearing at the Play/Ground Festival this weekend, the two appeared on a panel together and discussed the challenges they have faced playing those roles, and why they matter so much for representation.
“For me, Iris West was traditionally white in the comic books,” said Patton, who plays Iris on The Flash, as quoted by Comicbook.com. “So, you know, comic book fans are very opinionated, very vocal. So it was very scary stepping into that role when I started the show.”
She continued, “And I remember our executive producer at this time, once I got cast, he was like ‘Don’t go online. Just don’t go on.’ But what’s great is, I think over time, people have embraced me and have embraced this character and I think it’s really important. And I think what’s great is, you know, years to come, people will remember Iris West as being African-American. And that’s a really, really cool thing.”
Murray, who plays Josie McCoy of Josie and the Pussycats on Riverdale, echoed Patton’s thoughts. “It’s the exact same thing, you know? With Josie, she’s originally white in the comics, and so was Melody [Asha Bromfield]. And we all ended up coming as an all-black group,” she said.
“And when I actually was testing for it, my aunt asked me ‘How are you going to deal with it, if you book this? How are you going to handle people having an issue with it?’ And I was like, ‘We’ll just worry about it when it comes,'” Murray said.
“And then when it came, I did exactly that. They were like ‘Just don’t even go on the Internet. Don’t check social media.’ And I have seen people say some really unfortunate things, but there was so much happiness and gratitude and support outside of that negativity, that it kinda outweighed it. And now it’s just white noise. I don’t even notice it or see it much anymore. And it’s probably thanks to [Candice], because [she] had to go through it before I did. You probably made the transition a little bit easier,” Murray contined.
Both agreed that, in the end, while the backlash was real, the work was important, and absolutely essential to making the world a better place for actors of colour in the future.
“But, you know,” said Patton, “If I had to deal with crap online and harassment online so a girl who looks like me, ten years from now, can successfully be on these shows without any of that, then it’s well worth it. I can take it.”