Oliver Stark has replaced cheat meals by looking at photos of them

Star is Disney+’s new arm of classic TV dramas and gems from across the pond you might have missed. We spoke to Oliver Stark of 9-1-1 to learn how 2020 has affected his health regimen

by David Levesley for British GQ

Lord knows why, but Disney+ has decided to mark the 250th month of British lockdown with a new channel consisting of every great, lengthy American TV drama of the last two decades. Who, I ask, could possibly want to watch Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty in this, the 29th year of our complete isolation from other humans? Beyond, obviously, all of us.

Among a cadre of fabulous shows are some long-standing US classics that you might not have dived into with the same ferocity as you did that one summer when you were so depressed you watched the whole of Grey’s Anatomy in a month (no? Just me?). This includes 9-1-1, Ryan Murphy’s foray into the American procedural genre looking at emergency responders in Los Angeles.

Among its cast is 29-year-old Brit Oliver Stark, who plays the “reckless” Buck, “the youngest firefighter in his firehouse, who over the years we see mature into a more valuable and level-headed asset to his firehouse and to the people around him”. They’ve been filming the latest series during the reign of Covid-19 and Stark is fully aware of the privilege to be working and the stress of being one cog in a 300-strong machine that could collapse with a single diagnosis. “I get tested three times a week and every time I’m sure I’m going to be the one who stops everything and puts 300 people out of work,” admits Stark. But, he says, his faith in humanity has been bolstered by the cast and crew. “We’ve shot for 12 weeks and we’ve not had a single ‘zone A’, which is people on set testing positive.”

To mark the arrival of our lord and saviour – Disney+’s Star – Stark talked us through how he’s coped with staying both healthy and sane over the last year.


“For me, fitness has become as much a mental battle as it has a physical one. It’s something I’ve found myself leaning on since last March, as it’s really providing the only semblance of structure when there isn’t any else to be found. I’ve been lucky enough to have the capabilities and space to throw myself into it – which I’m aware not everyone did – but it’s given me a reason to get up some mornings, which, on other days, was hard to find.”


“I bought a house during the pandemic and I made sure I had space for an at-home gym while I was buying. My fitness lifestyle basically chose my house for me and I’ve come to depend on smaller gym apparatus. I couldn’t go to a commercial gym and work out with anyone else, so it meant leaning on dumbbells and a bench.

“I found adjustable dumbbells to be my best friend. It turns out dumbbells are really expensive! But if you have one pair that you can change from ten to 90 pounds, you can focus on smaller apparatus and full-body workouts, rather than trying to split it up into a sectioned workout across the week.”


“Some weeks I have eaten exactly how I planned to and other weeks I have eaten absolute rubbish. It’s a mental game: I’ve been able to really look at my nutrition some weeks and eat as structured as I want, and other weeks I’ve just had a bag of crisps. The more you flip-flop between the two the more important you realise food and nutrition is and the impact it has on your mental state.

“Somebody put it really well to me before the pandemic, when I was trying to be really strict with my eating. I said, ‘Every time I’m craving bad food I say, “My body doesn’t want it. My body is never craving the rubbish; your mind is.” He said that sometimes what your mind is craving is also important. That is super true and self care is trying to find that balance between what’s good for me and what I need to feel OK in the short term. I try to stick to this 80/20 thing: if you’re doing the right thing 80 per cent of the time, it’s absolutely OK to indulge, as long as you know you’re going to get back on the horse before too long. You don’t need to beat yourself up over it.”

Guilty pleasures

“One of the things I’m doing at the moment – which speaking out loud for the first time I think I now realise is crazy – is that I’m stockpiling photos of all the places I plan to eat at when the fourth season of 9-1-1 is wrapped. I have a list on my phone of different gross-looking burgers I can’t wait to shove in my face when I don’t have to be on camera the next day. Somehow that’s getting me through.”


“Very few times in my life, I can remember a dream from the night before and that has continued as it was before. But actually my sleep pattern has got better, I would say. The first two months of the pandemic – and I’m someone who goes to bed really early, like 9pm or 9.30pm – I started going to bed at 2am and waking up at 11am, which is unheard of for me.

“But then I was thinking, ‘I am getting eight hours of sleep a night, let me just shift this back a few hours,’ so now I go to bed at 10pm and wake up at 7am, meaning I get a good nine hours. Which, in my life pre-Covid, was a thing of rare appearance.

“I actually recently bought a pair of blue light-blocking glasses for when I’m watching TV or on my phone before bed, following research saying it keeps us awake longer. So the last couple of hours of being awake in the day I walk around with those on, which are… somewhat unfashionable.”

Mental health

“I wish I had committed more to what I’m going to say here, but I’ve done it on and off: journalling. Getting your thoughts out I’ve found to be extremely beneficial and it’s something that – when I’m doing it – I feel great and when I’m not, I don’t and I don’t know why. And then I realise I should always be doing it and it’s an avenue that works for me to get things out.

“But whatever helps people to actually release and be honest with what they’re feeling. I think there’s going to be a lot of unprocessed trauma from what we’re experiencing here, on a level we don’t really understand right now, because this is new, so I think just being able to find ways to express ourselves and articulate that is only a good thing.”

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