Actor Oliver Stark Opens Up About His ‘9-1-1’ Character’s Journey

News Room

These seven seasons into the action-packed drama series 9-1-1, actor Oliver Stark continues to save the day as brave firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley at Station 118. However, during the show’s milestone 100th episode on April 4, Buck arguably took his greatest leap yet in exploring his sexuality, having his first on-screen kiss with another man.

In last night’s episode on ABC, Buck took even greater steps towards embracing his newfound feelings, by coming out to some of his closest family and friends. I sat down with the London-born British actor today to discuss his 9-1-1 character’s evolving storyline and where these latest developments might take the show next.

Oliver, you are now seven seasons into 9-1-1 playing Evan “Buck” Buckley. As an actor, what continues to interest and motivate you most to keep telling these often larger-than-life rescue stories on primetime television?

OS: You know what? I think it’s kind of what you just eluded to there, right? We get to tell these stories and they speak to people in different ways. These are characters who are, more than anything, tools of representation to have stories told through them. If we can keep moving the story forward and tell stories in an interesting and authentic way that then an audience member can sit down and see something of themselves in and feel like they’re seeing a reflection of themselves – that’s exciting to me as an actor because that’s connection to the audience, and making work that says something and has a purpose.

As loyal 9-1-1 fans know by now, after years of speculation from fans regarding Buck’s sexuality, he shared his first on-screen kiss with Tommy (played by actor Lou Ferrigno Jr.) in last week’s episode. So I’m curious, how and when did these conversations about Buck’s evolution come about on your production? Was this a new creation for season seven or have there been talks of this potentially happening for a while?

OS: Officially, it’s a newer creation but I think what has been really fun is myself and Tim Minear, who writes the show, to kind of look back across the seasons and go No, there have been breadcrumbs to this for a long time and whether those have been intentional or not, I don’t think even really matters too much in the moment. The story has been telling itself and even on a subconscious level, it has been leading here, so it’s something that officially only came around this season, but I think what’s lovely about the DNA of this show is that if you do look back, Buck is somebody who has been looking for his identity. He has had a “womanizing” past and he has just been trying to find himself in all these different avenues, I think probably unsure of what was missing until it – I was going to say hit him in the face, but more to the point, kissed him in the face, and kind of opened up his world. He had this moment of Oh, that’s the thing that I’ve been looking for.

In last night’s new episode, Buck comes out to his sister Maddie (played by actor Jennifer Love Hewitt), he acknowledges his recent date with Tommy to his best friend and colleague Eddie (played by actor Ryan Guzman) and he slowly finds himself getting more comfortable to pursue his interests with Tommy. Oliver, how did you approach these scenes with a genuine feel and a care to make Buck’s messaging clear, but also to not make it become such a big deal in today’s times?

OS: Yeah, it’s striking that balance, where we want to tell this queer love story, and that’s a huge element of it, but we want to tell it just as human beings and not focus too much on that aspect. So, it’s finding a balance between giving it its importance, but also saying that this is no different. I have such a great relationship on-screen and off-screen with both of those people, that our scenes are always going to feel connected and loving, as they should, between those characters. It was just finding a place where those scenes felt supportive and of course there’s some element of surprise, but that’s all it is – surprise. It’s not shock and horror – it’s just Oh, that’s new, but pretty immediately, both of them are Great! As long as you are happy, that’s all that matters. As you know, it should be because Buck is just pursuing the things now that make him feel good and he’s being open to that and letting it flow through him.

My favorite scene in this last episode was when Maddie asks how long he has been leaning towards an interest in guys, you say as Buck, “Sure, I’ll check out a hot guy’s ass, but that’s normal.”

OS: It’s just showing that there has always been this thread. Buck is here now as a bisexual man. The story is not the – and this is the thing that has been leveled at me on social media a little bit over the past couple of weeks of You’ve changed this character from being straight to gay and that’s not the story we’re telling here. We’re telling that Buck has always been a bisexual man, he has just not had the capacity to maybe process those feelings or understand those feelings for various different reasons that we could go into. It’s not a change – he wasn’t straight and now he’s bi – he is just uncovering more about himself and the fact that he’s doing that now in his thirties, I think, is a really cool story to show that you can discover these things later in life.

Oliver, were you given any bit of a say with the 9-1-1 writers and producers on how you as an actor and your character Buck would ultimately take this developing, new storyline on?

OS: Yeah! Tim Minear is very collaborative and this was definitely a story that was pitched to me, rather than shoved upon me. He called me earlier in the season and said, “I have this idea for Buck, what do you think?” Honestly, it was immediately for me, “Yes, absolutely! I love it!” It felt like the correct step. I have spoken on this a little bit before, but I think it’s important to reiterate – I almost was making a decision this season, and had never communicated this to Tim, but that was a side of Buck that I do think has been there for a long time and was going to lean into, regardless this season. So, when Tim called me and pitched me this, I said, “Well, that’s great because I am already making moves to play him that way.”

I am sure you are seeing that the good majority of 9-1-1 fans have celebrated this storyline for Buck across social media. Could you have ever imagined the type of response this is having?

OS: You know, I try not to think too much about the response. I think it can be a dangerous road to go down, when you start thinking about the impact it could have. The way that it in fact has the biggest and the most positive impact, which is what I’m seeing here, is to just focus on telling the right story – telling the most truthful story. I think if you get too caught up in How is this going to be received? Is this going to be a big deal for television? I think that’s centering yourself a little bit too much, maybe, and being concerned with the wrong things. For me, the most important thing was just moment-to-moment, find something that felt truthful and authentic, and I think that’s what ends up connecting with the most people.

The response has been beautiful – like I can’t tell you how many wonderful messages I received from people who are openly queer and people who are not openly queer, which has been really amazing for me to see. I’ve received messages from firefighters who have said, “I’m not out and seeing this means the world to me.” I could never in a million years of expected to be getting those messages, so it’s very humbling and just a really amazing experience for me to get to be a part of that.

Oliver, you posted on your Instagram story on April 6, following Buck’s on-screen, same-sex kiss, to express your gratitude to supportive 9-1-1 fans, but also to address any negativity this storyline has received. You said in your post, “If one other character finding a new facet to his sexuality and realising his bisexuality is your deal breaker – I fear you’ve missed the entire point of the show.” Why was it important for you to address this and defend not only Buck but also your 9-1-1 creative team?

OS: I think it’s just the truth. If that is what pushes you over-the-edge and you don’t want to watch the show anymore, that’s fine. Prior to that part of the quote, I think when I said was, and it’s true, that this is a show that has always had a diverse spectrum of the queer community and been a show about love and inclusion, and if you’ve missed that, I don’t know what you’ve been watching, you know? So, the reason that I posted that was kind of two-fold: one was to let those people know if you have a negative opinion, listen, that’s fine, you can’t change anybody’s opinion online, right? We’re all just shouting into the void but that you can do that and that is the void – it doesn’t bother me. On the other hand, I wanted to say that because I want people who are part of that [LGBTQ] community to know that I am so proud to be representing this story and that there is no part of me that has any shame or concerns about telling this story. I think it’s a wonderful, human story to be able to to tell and I honestly do not care if anybody thinks differently to me in that – then go watch something else.

Being seven seasons into a show, I’m sure you can agree that storylines and character development can become a rather stale. So, did you see this development as a way to perhaps bring a fresh take to your character and your acting as Buck?

OS: Yeah, absolutely. You play the same character for six, seven, moving into eight years, obviously there are going to be changes and evolutions. Tim Minear had stepped away from the show for a couple of seasons to focus on 9-1-1: Lone Star and when he came back, one of the things he said to me was, “I think Buck has been stuck on a bit of a hamster wheel and I want to bring this story.” It was feeling his excitement to tell this story was also a huge bonus to me because you want to feel that your writer is excited to write for your character, you know? And so, I just think everybody was excited to have this be the next evolution of Buck and really move him forward and open this whole world of possibility up for him.

As season seven of 9-1-1 continues onward, Oliver, where do you hope that Buck goes next with his interest in Tommy and embracing these perhaps newer feelings that he seems to be having?

OS: I just hope he continues down that path and I think we will see him opening up more and more, and being louder and prouder about it. I want to tell real stories where not everything is going to be straightforward, but I don’t want the angst or the trauma to be in these kind of negative troupes that we’ve seen before. I want them to have real world problems that couples or people who are first dating have, but I don’t want it to be rooted in outside people being homophobic or anything like that. Those are stories we have seen and we’ve told, and sure, of course, happen in the real world, but I want to tell a happy story between these people and a real story. They have issues and they have things to deal with, but I just want them to be real world, everyday relationship issues.

Lastly Oliver, after embodying Buck over these past seven seasons so far and seeing this exciting yet understandably emotional moment he is having, what would you, Oliver, say to Buck to show him some extra support and comfort, as he figures out his path ahead?

OS: I think I would just remind him that he’s very loved by all of those around him. I think when it comes to support systems, this show portrays this “found family” that is so strong and that he could really lean on anybody in the show and they would have his back – any member of the 118 – Maddie, Chris even. He’s well-supported, he’s well-loved and he’s moving in the right direction.

Read the full article here

Share this Article
Leave a comment