9-1-1 Star Oliver Stark On Buck’s Leadership, Cast Camaraderie & ‘Insightful’ Buck Journey

Evan Buckley lives!

It was touch and go for a while there, but after his coma fever dreams during 9-1-1 Season 6 Episode 11 that saw Buck desperately trying to figure out how to get home, Buck took a breath, and all was right in the world again.

Oliver Stark does some heavy lifting during this hour, and he pulls off an incredible performance as Buck navigates this surreal world where nothing is as it seems. Stark was nice enough to take some time to jump on a call and answer some of our pressing questions after that emotional hour.

Stark’s responses were incredibly candid and kind, from talking about the Buckley parents to his new couch and what to expect from the rest of 9-1-1 Season 6.

It’s always a pleasure to speak with the charming actor, and I hope you guys enjoy this one!

This was Buck’s episode, really, from start to finish. What were you thinking and feeling when you read the script for the first time?

I think my first thought was, wow, this feels like a lot of pressure in many ways. One, just because of the workload. Two, because of the subject matter, and three, I think because it’s such a departure from what the show usually is and whether people are going to connect to it and relate to it and understand it.

And I think I just put myself in a headspace of “that’s not really my business.” I think it’s better, and I’m learning this more and more to make these things almost in isolation, away from the thoughts and opinions of others. Then you put it out into the world and do your best not to be concerned with how it’s received.

When diving into this new world, Buck is around a lot of familiar faces, but you get to play off of the other characters in different ways. What was that like, and what was your favorite part about filming the episode?

Yeah, it was really fun because we’ve had six seasons of building up a work relationship, a personal relationship, and a really deep level of trust among ourselves. So I knew it would be fun and an enjoyable experience no matter what, but I don’t think I expected it to be quite as exciting and fulfilling as it turned out to be.

I think Ghost Bobby, as we’ve been referring to him, was probably my favorite to interact with because he was the most changed.

Obviously, his character is dead in the dream, so he got to perform outside his usual realm or toolbox. We got to include these fun little moments where one second he’d appear, and he’d suddenly be behind my back, and then the next instance, he was in front of me.

So the creativity and crossing of those scenes was really a highlight of the episode for me.

That flows nicely into my next question: Bobby and Buck’s relationship was highlighted throughout the hour, both in the dream and in some flashbacks. So what do you enjoy most about that dynamic between the two?

I think it’s a dynamic that so much mirrors our real-life dynamic. They are friends, they are colleagues as Pete and I are, and there’s also a mentor-mentee relationship, as I believe I have with Pete.

And then there is a father-figure bond. I would consider us more brotherly in real life, but in the show, we’ve seen that highlighted, as you say, throughout this episode. And a real emphasis was put on it. There, he’s a father figure. He absolutely is. And obviously, we go back into Bobby’s past, and he lost his children.

So I think they’re both filling a void for each other that maybe they had for some years before the 118 brought them together.

Buck has a moment when he is trying to get back home towards the end of the episode where he talks to his parents, and he admits to them that he will always love them and knows that they tried their best. And I appreciated that in that moment, it felt like he was saying it for himself more than anyone else.

Could you speak to Buck’s feelings regarding his relationship with his parents and where we might see that go?

Parental relationships are always complicated. There’s always some level of childhood trauma, and it’s always respective of each relationship, but childhood and parenting are tough things and can cause rifts.

And I don’t see the point in making a TV show where conflicts can’t ever be resolved or they can’t start to move towards a place of healing.

So I was really happy that Buck got to see them as people and see them as more than just his parents, but as individuals that were grieving the loss of their child, and so maybe it was really difficult for them as well.

And they had a lot to deal with, and they didn’t deal with it in the best way, but maybe they did the best they could, and we’re all just trying to work life out together and stumble through it. And I think that was a real moment of understanding for him.

Buck has been on this pursuit of happiness, I guess I would say, this season. How will this near-death experience impact that continued pursuit?

I think it’s going to make him start to look at life in a new way and start to question himself on a deeper level. He was really close to death here, and I think that’s a very sobering thing to go through. It makes you maybe look at your life in a different way and are you happy, and what changes can you make to move towards that happiness?

And later in the season, we’re going to see callbacks to one of the early emergencies from this season that related to happiness and death. And we’re going to look at how that very much is still on Buck’s mind and is still buried in his psyche and ready to help him take the necessary steps.

Every season, we, as an audience, learn more about these characters as they grow over time. But what do you feel you’ve learned about Buck this season?

I’ve started to see Buck as more of a leader this season. We started the season with him wanting to be interim captain and being told that he wasn’t ready yet, which I agree I don’t think he was, but almost in the background, there’s always been this movement towards, well, can he one day be captain? Can he be a leader of people?

And he’s obviously great at his job, but I think being a leader is more than just being good at your job. It’s: how do you inspire those around you? How do you empower them to do their jobs?

And I think as the season has progressed, there have been these opportunities. And there will continue to be these opportunities for him to step more into that role, even just within himself, and believe in himself less from a place of childish ambition and more from a place of this is something that I believe and know that I can do.

At the end of this hour, it appears that Margaret will get Buck a couch, and one of my favorite lines from the premiere is when Buck tells Eddie he doesn’t want to pick the wrong couch again. So, if he’s not purchasing the couch, will this end the couch saga?

This will not be the end of the couch saga. The couch will continue until the finale. He’s going to get a couch. Margaret’s going to get him a couch, but it will not last, which I’m very happy about because it was the least comfy couch I’ve ever sat on.

So, it looks very nice, but once you buy, and this is very typical, I don’t think this is intended, but typical of Margaret, it looks lovely, but it’s super uncomfortable. When I heard that that couch was going through a little thing, I was very pleased to hear it.

I look forward to seeing what that thing is. Can you tell us a little bit about this sperm donor storyline and how that will continue to play out coming off of the heels of Buck’s traumatic event?

Yeah, I think Buck is very settled in it and in his decision. We saw him saying to his mom in [9-1-1 Season 6 Episode 10], “I’m not the dad. I’m the donor.” And I really do think he’s been able to separate those two things in his head at this point. He knows what his role is, and he’s going to be there for them, but only in the sense of being a friend.

They are the parents, and he has this history with Connor, so he’s going to be there for him as a friend and also for Kameron because she is the mother of his friend’s child. But it is absolutely in the role of donor and friend, and not, am I the dad here?

How do you think Buck’s experiences this season will impact his future relationships, romantic or otherwise?

I think he’s not going to be as willing to bend who he is to fit into anybody else’s narratives of what a relationship should be and what he should be in the relationship.

And that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be willing to compromise and sacrifice because any successful relationship is built with those things in mind, but it’s going to be from a much healthier place and a much more well-considered place rather than just looking for validation so that he can have a partner to boost himself up.

I like that for Buck.

Yeah, me too.

I believe you’re getting ready to wrap 9-1-1 Season 6, or you may have already. So, what’s the first thing you do when you wrap a season? Do you read a good book or take a nap? What do you do?

Yeah, so we have about a week left. This is not the healthiest thing to do, but for about a week after we wrap, I just eat garbage food—so much of it. I Postmates like eight times a day, and it’s a mix between eat some junk, take a nap, eat some junk, take a nap. I should probably do some laundry, eat some junk.

You deserve it after you guys put so much work into everything.

Thank you so much for saying that. I think so too.

No, really. The cast and crew put so much work in, and I think you deserve some time just to enjoy life. Enjoy what you enjoy.

This crew, in particular. As cast, we’re not in every scene, so we sometimes have a day off during the week, but the crew, they’re there all day, every day. This crew is, they are the real unsung heroes of our show.

For sure. Do you have any fun behind-the-scenes moments from shooting this season as you’re coming up toward the end?

Yeah, I think anytime we move toward the end of the season, there becomes this real sense of reminding ourselves how grateful we are to be around each other. So, we do. We end up laughing a lot more. We end up enjoying ourselves a lot more. I have taken to being, that’s, the new on-set photographer.

My experiences right now are shoving cameras in people’s faces and them saying, “Can you stop doing that?” And then me saying, “I know you say that right now, but when you see the picture, you are going to like it. So how about you just look where I’m telling you, smile and pretend I’m not here and you’re going to like it once I get it developed?”

So, I think, just in general, camaraderie. We’re a bunch that really enjoys being around each other. There really is a family feel. We have guest cast come on the show and say things to us about how we feel like siblings sometimes, the way that we make fun of each other and bicker, but then it’s always followed by a hug, and it’s family.

We spend more time with these people than anyone else in our lives. So every day brings laughter and joy, and I’m very, very grateful for that.

Great to hear. And it translates so well on the screen, too.

Last question for me. What can you tease for us about the rest of the season, particularly Buck’s journey?

Buck is not going to bounce back quickly, as sometimes we’ve seen in the world of 9-1-1.

But he is going to find himself, I’ve had fun teasing this, with some new skills once he does return to work, and then he is going to go on quite an insightful journey, I think, towards the end of the season, and he’s going to open himself up again.

But the season as a whole is really big towards the end.

We didn’t start this season with a particularly huge disaster as we have in past years, but we sure are going to end it on one, and we’re going to find the 118 in some real peril again. So I think it’s really going to have people on the edge of their seats.

***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***

You can watch 9-1-1 online right here on TV Fanatic and Mondays at 8/7c on FOX.

Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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