It probably won’t come as news to most of our readers that comics fans have a tendency to react rather… strongly when casting decisions step outside the established race of a character. It’s an unfortunate pattern (to say the least) that we’ve seen repeat itself time and time again, from Michael Clarke Duncan’s casting in ‘Daredevil’ to Idris Elba’s in ‘Thor’.
Of course, this isn’t just a “movie” problem, as we’ve seen this with regard to comic-inspired television series as well. In fact, it’s something we’ve seen more than once on ‘The Flash’ alone, usually in connection to members of the West family. For at least one of those performers, Wally West/Kid Flash actor Keiynan Lonsdale, it was a particularly meaningful experience and one that he is now starting to open up about. Here’s how Lonsdale describes what he terms his first experience with online racism:
“The character is originally Caucasian [in the comic books], and so when I got cast – they had changed the character in the most recent comic books and his father and sister are black, but people still didn’t put two and two together. It was interesting. I was upset and hurt and I couldn’t understand it.”
So how did Lonsdale deal with this turn of events? With apologies to the Beatles, he got by with a little help from his castmates. As he explains:
“I think one thing that helped and made me sad but it made me realize it wasn’t personal – was one I got to set, I found out that Candice [Patton], who plays my sister Iris, had also been receiving it, so I was like, “Whoa, this is what people do? People care about that?” Coming from Australia, of course we still have racism, but it’s different. So it was an education. I needed to experience that. There were definitely things that have tested my emotions, and just learning how to not respond to really awful [stuff], and learning to be like, “It doesn’t matter. I’m good exactly as I am.” I learned a lot about that by joining a show.”
Of course, Lonsdale has since done fairly well for himself in the Arrowverse. Despite the ugly initial backlash, he has been a constant presence, starting off as a recurring guest star on ‘The Flash’ and eventually graduating to a series regular on sister show ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.