Oliver Stark

Following 9-1-1’s debut on ABC, some fans anxiously worried about the state of the show. Fan favourite Oliver Stark is here to ease those qualms all while reflecting on Buck’s past and future.

During a time of constant media acquisitions and trade-offs, 9-1-1 has managed to stand tall. It’s a testament to their incredible storytelling and a cast that makes chemistry feel like second nature. After premiering in 2018, it’s garnered a feverish fanbase with dedicated viewers obsessively talking about all things 9-1-1 (so much that it often trends on various social media platforms). When discussing the show — which has 7 seasons of emergency-packed episodes and had a recent move to ABC network — with British actor Oliver Stark, it’s evident that 9-1-1 is proving to the world that they are in no place to slow down.

Stark grew up in London, the youngest of two brothers, and found his first role as part of the cast of David Alexander’s short film Follow. Shortly after, he cultivated a unique and vast filmography, appearing on everything from the beloved Luther and the iconic British show Casualty. At that point, all of his work would become the catalyst to getting the role of Evan Buckley on 9-1-1. The drama series follows the intimate lives of Los Angeles first responders — from police officers to paramedics to, in Evan Buckley’s case, firefighters. More affectionately known to characters as “Buck,” Evan Buckley is one of the main firefighters on The 118 and became an immediate fan favourite as soon as the show premiered.

Chatting about the show’s lifespan and its future, Stark takes a moment to shine a light on their new home network, ABC, who he explains has thrown a whole load of might behind their marketing. Stark is cognizant that getting six seasons of a TV show in this day and age is “very hard” to come by and the network wants people to know that 9-1-1 is still here, going strong, and only looking to get stronger. Most importantly, as an actor, Stark felt no difference on-set in the day-to-day running of the show. He could feel ABC’s excitement which he describes as a “really lovely feeling” and positively impacts everyone.

Stark has spent more than half a decade portraying Buck and, what excites him most, is that it still feels like there is more to come. “The beauty of the show is that it can go on forever in some senses,” Stark says. “You can rejig it and find new iterations of it time and time again. If it ever comes to a point where people want to leave, they can bring in new blood. It has the potential to be around for a very long time. There’s no doubt about that. And there are only so many kinds of emergencies you can do; but there are thousands of different takes on those different themes. So it definitely has legs, you know. [If] the audience sticks around, and if everybody still enjoys making it, and it has the legs to be around for a very long time to come.”

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There is a camaraderie between characters that finds its way into the cast’s own relationships with each other — so much so that it seems the cast enjoys filming it just as much as the fans like watching it. In season 6, there was a scene where Buck had to jump on a bike for what felt like miles. “I think we spent two nights on that whole kind of sequence. Luckily, I love riding bikes,” he explains. “There’s a couple things I think that didn’t make it in the show, like Buck riding down a flight of stairs at one point,” courtesy of their stunt team.

But when it came down to the precision driver who was driving towards Buck, Stark explained that “he would be driving towards me, and I’m on the bike, and he stops literally a few inches from me. So, you know a lot of it was me, and real, and a little bit terrifying.” When bringing up that it speaks to his dedication to his character and a testament to the craft, Stark laughs. “I’ll take it but I don’t know if it speaks to my ability as an actor as much as my delusion at thinking I can get out of things if I needed to.”

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At first, Buck was introduced to audiences as someone with a careless, hard-shelled exterior and interior, from the get-go; over the years, however, time has shown that he has developed beyond that. Now, as Stark reflects on the previous seasons, how Buck’s growth and development show audiences a softer side to him, and the catalysts to why he is the way that he is.

Thinking back to the pilot episode of the series, Stark is reminded of the scene where Buck saves a newborn baby that was stuck inside of a pipe and a wall. In the most recent season finale, he delivered a baby for his former college roommate and wife — which he was the sperm donor for. After the baby is born, he pauses for a second before handing the newborn to the couple. Later on in the episode, he realizes, “I’ve been there at the end of the end of life so many times, but never at the beginning.”

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Buck’s future — and whether that includes kids — is something Stark thinks about. Stark comments that he believes that Buck wants to be a father one day, but it’s not something that was planned from the start of it all. Noting on the protectiveness that is within Buck’s DNA, especially around kids, Stark says, “he [Buck] just lights up around them and there’s this real fatherly energy to him.” Pausing, Stark continues. “Saying this now for the first time… I am wondering if he feels ready or worthy of it. I think a big part of that for him will be when he finds the right person to start moving that direction with, but we’ve seen all the instincts are there. And you know, personally, I do think he will be a great father when the time comes. But I can’t necessarily see that being anytime soon.”

Referencing his past traumas between him and his parents — specifically, the episode with the flashback to Buck’s childhood and the lack of love he received — it’s understandable that Buck would be hesitant about the possibility of having kids of his own. However, within the trauma and conflict lies the good storytelling, he inputs, despite some people suggesting that Buck has been through enough to which Stark declares: “That’s boring! That’s where the good storytelling is, in the trauma and in the conflict.” In Stark’s mind, he believes Buck can go one of two ways when the time comes: “…He can either continue that cycle or he can look to break it; and the way we’ve seen him interacting with kids clearly looks to me that he’s more interested in breaking that cycle and being a source of love and care.” 

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The love and care Stark talks about does build upon the people within his team at The 118 Firehouse. The beauty of the writing on 9-1-1 — and how the show has grown and developed since it first premiered six years ago — means that nods to past moments and parallels occur. Stark touched on one in particular, mentioning the rule about not going beyond the glass doors in an emergency room. Bringing up an instance in the earlier seasons in the show, Bobby (Peter Krause), tells Buck that a firefighter’s job ends at the hospital’s glass doors — essentially suggesting that they are not involved with anything that happens afterwards.

Later on in Season 5, Buck shares this same quote with his teammate, Eddie (Ryan Guzman), when they had to wait in the lobby after their fellow 118 member Chimney (Kenneth Choi) was stabbed. Trying to make light of the situation, Buck jokes that he doesn’t know who broke that rule first. Stark chimes in here to say that rules are meant to be broken and, in The 118’s case, “They’re emotional beings who as humans are, you know, we’re not logical all the time. As much as you’re not meant to cross this threshold, it goes out the window when your emotions take over when a person that you love is on the other side of the doors. I don’t think that the logical thought of my job comes into play quite so much. You go where your heart takes you and you follow the ones that you love. It’s not a real thing [playing perfectly logical characters] so I’m glad we break those rules when it’s called for.”

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Despite being a fictional representation of real-life first responders, the emotions shown on the screen seem to carry well into the hearts of the viewers and does an excellent job of tugging at the heartstrings of anyone who watches. Stark highlights the credit to the showrunners and directors who make the show possible. 

When asked about potentially stepping behind the camera to direct, he immediately says “Absolutely,” but is quick to mention he finds himself in his “own head” as the youngest member of the main cast, unsure if he’s ready for that level yet. Still, it is never out of the realm of possibility. “I can find some insecurity in there about whether I’m ready to do that. From a strictly story-telling perspective, I think I’m ready. I have a great relationship with our producers and DP, so if ever the time comes and they decide to entrust me with that… I’d be delighted to do so.”

The good news for fans, though, is that he did tease that one of the main cast members is directing this year–but didn’t disclose who. “It [his directing debut] won’t be this year because we’re making 10 episodes and they are already set… But I will say there is an episode this season directed by one of us. I won’t say who because it’s not announced yet, but I’m really excited about it.”

As the conversation comes to a close and Stark is inevitably heading off to production again, it’s clear that above all, he prefers to stay in the moment and focus on Buck, his work, and the task at hand: creating a show that defies expectations. “I try not to think too deeply on that stuff,” he states when asked about where the show could eventually take him, if and when it ever ends. “I’d rather just enjoy it for what it is in the moment. I think any kind of art we are trying to make is at its best if you just focus on making it and leave the audience’s reaction out of the equation. We have a good time making it and the word ‘good’ is subjective, so it just has to be the thing that feels right to you at the time of creating it. Then, you just hope for the best.”

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9-1-1 airs Thursdays on ABC and is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

Interview Sara Salamat
Photography Ben Duggan
Styling Pierrette Noel Abegg
Grooming Heather Weppler for Exclusive Artists using Koh Gen Do and Philip B. Haircare
Studio The Ivory Space Studios
Editor Kelsey Barnes

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