Pop-Culturalist Chats with 9-1-1’s Oliver Stark

by Kevin for Pop Culturalist

Oliver Stark is heating up our screens as fireman Evan “Buck” Buckley on Ryan Murphy’s procedural drama, 9-1-1. The series explores the high-pressure situations that first responders—including dispatchers, firefighters and police officers—face on a daily basis. Since the premiere in 2018, Oliver has taken audiences on quite the journey with his character as Buck transformed from the self-diagnosed sex addict to a man who’s looking for more. He’s grown from the inexperienced rookie to a standout in the fire department. Pop-Culturalist caught up with Oliver in between filming to chat about 9-1-1, what we can expect from the second half of season two, and what he loves most about playing Buck.

9-1-1 Questions

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in shows centered around first responders. How does 9-1-1 differentiate itself?
It differentiates itself in a number of ways: one being that we include 911 dispatchers into the story because they’re really the first, first responders. They’re incredibly highly-trained people who are the first point of contact. Shining a light on them is a really important part of our story. I also think the quirkiness and uniqueness of the calls that we go on add something different to our show. We don’t just fight fires. We don’t just arrest people. We show a spectrum of different emergency calls first responders end up dealing with, many based on actual events.

Throughout your character’s arc, we see him toe the line between Buck 1.0 and 2.0. As an actor, what’s more fun to explore: Buck’s progression or regression?
The progression, for sure! It’s always nice to start in that kind of 1.0 position, but to have been able to grow out of that and grow with the story has been really lovely. On the flip side of that, nobody is perfect. Every now and then, Buck slips back into the past, but that’s because he’s human. Getting the chance to play both tells a more authentic story.

What’s been the most surprising part of his journey for you?
To be honest, when I took the job, I didn’t really know anything; it’s all come as a lovely surprise. I’ve enjoyed playing through the arc, for sure, but also I think the way that the goodbye with Abby was handled was surprising. I really liked that it ended with Buck being the one to find the strength to walk away from it instead of having her send a letter back and breaking up with him; it was an empowering moment for him.

As we head into the back half of season two, which Buck will we see come to the forefront?
It’ll be the new 2.0 version of the character, but like I said, there’s always a tendency to fall back into old habits, although I know it’s something he doesn’t want to do. We’ll get to see his progression as we move forward.

Buck has a lot of interesting relationships and dynamics in his life. Which is your favorite to explore and why?
I’ve really enjoyed the scenes with Maddie, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt. This sibling relationship has brought a new element to the show and a new dynamic to get to play with—that’s definitely been a real favorite of mine. I also enjoy the scenes between Buck and Bobby and their mentor/mentee relationship. It mirrors my relationship with Peter Krause, who plays Bobby. It’s nice to share that onscreen with the audience.

Each episode teaches a life lesson. Which has resonated with you the most and why?
It’d be the “Stuck” episode. It was a reminder that everybody has stuff they’re dealing with. Mine will be different from yours and yours from the next person. Most of the time, though, we’re all stuck in our own little worlds and dealing with our own issues. It’s important to remember to always be kind to each other because we’re all going through something.

What can you tease about the rest of this season?
At the end of the first half of the season, we realized that we have met Maddie’s abusive ex. That will continue to play out and get very dark, but however dark the show gets, there’s always a real undertone of hopefulness and heart. The rest of the season will continue to get bigger and crazier.

If you could write up a storyline for Buck, what would it be?
One of my favorite Buck storylines happened early on when he lost someone on the rollercoaster. It was a real teaching moment. I always like stuff where he realizes that he’s not invincible and things can go wrong for him, so something along those lines.

Career Questions

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned being a part of this industry?
What’s meant to be will be. If something doesn’t fall your way, it was never, ever going to, and that’s okay! I’ve learned to let things that weren’t meant for me go. That’s just part of life. You have to have patience. You have to hang in there. You have to work and do everything you can and then things will fall how they’re meant to.

Do you have a dream role?
It’s not so much that I have a dream role; I more have scenes in my head that I want to play out. I want to score the winning touchdown in a football game. I want to give the closing speech in a law case. There are moments that I want to play out rather than fully constructed characters on my end. I’m very open to seeing what comes. I just want to be a part of good work more than anything.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I know it’s quite a cliché answer and most people will say it, but it’s true, “You’re okay as you are. You’re going to find yourself. You’re enough.” Then again, not knowing that at a younger age is part of the discovery process, so maybe I’d whisper it and then quickly run away. [laughs]

Pop-Culturalist Speed Round

Guilty pleasure TV show?
I like to watch a show called Love After Lockup, which is about inmates finding love with people in the outside world.

Guilty pleasure movie?
The movie that I’ve probably watched more times than I care to admit, which I think maybe makes it a guilty pleasure, is Ocean’s 11.

Favorite book?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Favorite play or musical?
Patrick Marber’s Dealer’s Choice

A band or artist that fans would be surprised to learn is on your playlist?
Keaton Henson. To some people, his music tends to be quite depressing, but I find a lot in it. I think a lot of people view me as being quite similar to Buck, but I don’t think this is a Buck artist. It’s an Oliver artist.

Last show you binge-watched?
The Haunting of Hill House

Hidden talent?
I can spin a basketball on my finger forever.

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