A report suggesting that Kiersey Clemons could be replaced as Iris West in Warner Bros.' Flashpoint has been met with surprisingly strong reactions by fans of the DC Extended Universe. What makes this situation all the more interesting is that we haven't even seen Clemons' Iris in action, and yet despite that, the general response to this rumor has been one of disapproval and disappointment -- and rightfully so.
Clemons was set to debut as Iris in Zack Snyder's Justice League, setting the stage for her and Barry Allen's (Ezra Miller) romance in the solo Flash film. However, her cameo was ultimately cut from the ensemble movie, likely to help condense the film's run-time to two hours. In the wake of the movie's lackluster release, an anonymous person purporting to be a Justice League visual effects artist has been spilling the behind-the-scenes beans on Reddit, claiming that more than simply cutting Clemons' debut, the studio wants to recast the role. According to the source, Director Rick Famuyiwa, who worked with Clemons on Dope, brought her in when he was slated to direct the Flash's solo flick, but when he left due to creative differences, the studio began looking for another actress.
Why would Clemons' replacement infuriate fans, though, given she's yet to officially enter the DCEU? It's simple: The potential recasting could be a regressive move, walking back on the diversity within the comic book universe Warner Bros. is attempting to create.
When it comes to Iris, forward-thinking steps have already been made on The CW's The Flash. While DC Comics readers are accustomed to a caucasian Iris, the TV series introduced Candice Patton, a black actor, in the role. Iris is an intrepid reporter and soul-mate of Barry Allen (played on television by Grant Gustin). Viewers later met her brother Wally, himself based on Iris' nephew in the comics who was introduced in 2011. While the DC Comics' Iris remains white, her nephew is one of the DCU's highest profile biracial heroes.
These moves added much needed color to the DC Universe, both on the small screen and in the comics, reflecting the multi-ethnic world we live in today. This message of inclusivity is precisely why Clemons' casting matters -- a lot. She adds another person of color to the DCEU, where the only prominent ones are Deadshot (Will Smith), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Perry White (Laurence Fishburne), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and his father. When you soak in the full range of characters in the DCEU, from Man of Steel to the Justice League, you can clearly see that people of color are in the vast minority, which is what makes fans' frustration understandable, and which is what will continue to drive it.
Sadly, Hollywood continues to struggle to expand its color palette. This was highly apparent in the whitewashing issue regarding Scarlet Johansson as Major in Ghost in the Shell issue, the controversy with Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, and recently, with Ed Skrein stepping away from the Hellboy reboot after being cast as a character of Asian background. Clemons' casting helped the DCEU move away from this tunnel-vision, adding a sense of reality to what Warner Bros. is crafting.
The DCEU should continue to follow what The CW is doing with its DCTV slate of shows. Characters like Black Lightning, Vixen, Firestorm, Jimmy Olsen and Arrow's John Diggle are all front and center, reminding fans how much social change can occur in just a handful of years. It paints these television shows as cosmopolitan and fully-embracing of people from all walks of life.
Sacking Clemons would mean losing one of the bright upstarts in Hollywood at the moment as well. She's been in shows like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and this year's Flatliners remake, and can be viewed as part of Hollywood's new generation. In other words, she appeals directly to the younger audience that WB wants to fill cinemas.
Of course, these axing rumors should be taken with a grain of salt for the time being. After all, the Redditor made it clear that while Warner Bros. intended to digitally replace Clemons in the Justice League scene with another woman, giving the studio enough time to recast the role, they were still monitoring the situation to see if there would be fan backlash. If there was, the source claims the studio may alter its plans and allow the actress to retain the role of Iris as first envisioned. However, Warner Bros. has neither confirmed nor denied the report of Clemons' being cut from Justice League, which has fans expecting the worst.
As of now, with no director attached to Flashpoint, and word that the critical and financial reaction to Justice League may weigh on its future, as well as other DCEU films, a lot is still up in the air. One can only hope the studio decides to evolve with the times, not just on a creative level, but in terms of the message sent of moving together as an accepting, inclusive and multi-racial world. Clemons' casting, and the overall breaking down of racial borders, is just one step in this movement, but at the end of the day, it's a big and very necessary step that needs to be taken.
Flashpoint stars Ezra Miller as Barry Allen, Kiersey Clemons as Iris West, Billy Crudup as Henry Allen, Ray Fisher as Cyborg and possibly Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Originally intended to hit theaters on March 16, 2018, when it was titled simply The Flash, the film currently has no release date.