In a recent interview with the LA Times, Keiynan Lonsdale described his experience with racism after being cast as Wally West in The Flash.
In the comics, Wally West began his superhero career as Kid Flash, the sidekick of Barry Allen/the Flash; Barry was also the boyfriend of Wally’s aunt, Iris West. In the TV series, he and Iris are siblings, and both are played by black actors, while their comic book counterparts are Caucasian redheads.
Lonsdale’s version premiered in season two. Growing up in Australia, he says that he did experience racism, though he was not expecting as much as he got when he took over the role. Iris’ actress, Candice Patton, had also gotten flak from some fans since season one.
“It was an education. I needed to experience that,” he said. “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, good exactly as I am.’ I learned a lot about that by joining a show.”
He also notes that the comic books, as part of their “New 52” initiative, had also changed Wally West to be black around the same time. In that case, however, he was still the nephew of a white Iris, whose brother apparently married a black woman.
It is worth noting that the New 52 version of Wally West also got flak from fans, though to be fair, not all of that was because of racism—the “new” Wally was also much younger than he had previously been, had no connection to his old friends like Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing and the other Titans, and had a more sour personality. Eventually, the “DC Rebirth” initiative retconned him and the old, redheaded Wally into cousins with the same first name, with both operating as superheroes while using different titles.