Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 - Season 3 - "The Taking of Dispatch 9-1-1" | ©2020 Fox/Jack Zeman

Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 – Season 3 – “The Taking of Dispatch 9-1-1” | ©2020 Fox/Jack Zeman

9-1-1, Fox’s first-responder drama, returns for the rest of its third season on Monday, April 13. Oliver Stark has been with 9-1-1 from the beginning as Evan “Buck” Buckley, who has been through a lot of changes since the series began. Buck started off as a ladies’ man who became monogamous when he fell for 9-1-1 operator Abby Clark (Connie Britton). When Abby left at the end of Season 1, Buck welcomed his sister, erstwhile nurse Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), into his home as she fled an abusive husband (she wound up having to kill her ex in self-defense). Buck also bonded with new-to-the-station Eddie Diaz (Ryan Guzman), becoming almost a second father to Eddie’s young son Christopher (Gavin McHugh), who has cerebral palsy. After being sidelined by a near-fatal blood clot, Buck wound up suing the department, including his beloved fire captain Bobby Nash (Peter Krause), to get put back on active duty. This caused a rift, but Buck came to his senses, all is forgiven, and Buck is back on the job.

Stark was also a regular on INTO THE BADLANDS. His film credits include UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS, MINDGAMERS, and MONTANA. Despite his perfect onscreen American accent, actor Stark is actually English, which becomes evident in conversation with him.

ASSIGNMENT X: Have you played Americans before 9-1-1?

OLIVER STARK: I have, on INTO THE BADLANDS on AMC for a couple of years.

AX: Is doing an American accent something that came easily to you from the start, or have you gotten more comfortable with it?

STARK: I’ve gotten more comfortable. And there are still some days where I turn up, and I think, “Oh, God, I can’t do it.” But it is something that I’ve put a lot of time into. Because for me, it’s a real pet peeve if I’m watching something and the accent is off, and it takes me out.

AX: I would imagine INTO THE BADLANDS also had you running, jumping, punching …

STARK: Mostly running. Mostly running away from the fights. We did do the training, but I was able to do the rest.

Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 - Season 3 - "Fools" | ©2020 Fox/Jack Zeman

Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 – Season 3 – “Fools” | ©2020 Fox/Jack Zeman

AX: So how is the 9-1-1 training compared to the BADLANDS training?

STARK: [For the pilot], we didn’t do any structured, set up by the studio training. But we all took it upon ourselves to do a little. For me, it was a lot more important to be able to train to do the job. There was a kind of divide of, I could train for aesthetics, or I could train to be capable. So I took the kind of training that a firefighter would do. So I did a lot of carrying heavy stuff around, and a lot of running, basically. It was difficult, but it was really rewarding.

AX: How much of 9-1-1 is literally firefighting?

STARK: Eighty percent of calls to firefighters in L.A. deal with the medical, and I feel like that’s not something that’s often represented. So I feel like we’re trying to keep it in the realm of reality, and show that. [When firefighters respond at a call], they know exactly what to do. We’ve had a lot of physically demanding moments on set. Which is great. It takes away the element of acting, because you just have to do it. You have to get up, and you have to climb that ladder. You have to rappel down that building, which is a lot of fun.

AX: Early in Season 1, you have to deal with a large constrictor snake. A lot of the characters were freaked out by it onscreen. What was your for-real reaction?

STARK: You know, honestly, I was okay with it. So me and Peter Krause, we went into this room and we met Angel, and I gave it a little stroke in the middle of its body. It was twelve feet, so there was a safe middle zone. And I was okay with it. My only moment of fear that day came walking through the first room in there. There are these five snakes on this tree, and one of them came six inches from my face, and as I walked around, it just stayed at that distance. So it wasn’t the big snake, it was the smaller one who just …

AX: Well, they wouldn’t have a venomous snake on set …

STARK: Sure, but I still don’t want to be bitten on the face. I looked at it and I thought, “This is how it ends.”

AX: Speaking of Peter Krause, how is having him play your boss?

STARK: Peter Krause is the nicest man you can imagine. For me, coming into this show, and the whole cast around me is supremely experienced, I was intimidated the first day, you know, “What are these guys going to be like?” And everyone is lovely, and so welcoming, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any ego or anything involved, and they’ve all been incredible at making me feel comfortable, and they’re great people, and a great group to work with. So no. No fear. Not yet.

Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 - Season 2 | ©2018 Fox/Mathieu Young

Oliver Stark in 9-1-1 – Season 2 | ©2018 Fox/Mathieu Young

AX: Angela Bassett, who plays police sergeant Athena Grant, and Peter Krause are both producers on 9-1-1. How is it having producers as costars?

STARK: I have to say, I felt it more on INTO THE BADLANDS. I was very conscious of the fact that [series lead] Daniel Wu was an executive producer. On this, when Angela’s at work as an actress, I feel like she’s at work as an actress. You don’t sense that at all. So I don’t consciously think about it when we’re working, which is nice, because you don’t want to think, “Oh, I’m doing a scene with this person, who’s shouting at me in the scene, and she’s also my boss.” There’s no element of that in play, which is nice.

AX: But if you want to change a line or something …

STARK: John Gray is the producer who’s on set a lot, and he’s one of the writers, so he’s the guy to go to for that. And they’re a really collaborative group. They encourage a lot of improvisation, and a lot of dependence on us to form those relationships. And that’s been really liberating as an actor, and I think we’ve all kind of enjoyed that, and grown from it. So yeah, it’s been a really collaborative process, from Day One, really.

AX: Has doing 9-1-1 increased your knowledge of Los Angeles at all?

STARK: Yeah. I’ve lived here for a couple of years, so I know it pretty well, but we started going to areas that I’ve never been to before, and out of L.A. as well. We’ve been out to Santa Clarita, we’ve been out to Ontario. So it’s really shown me a lot more of California than I ever thought I might see.

AX: What’s the most challenging physical thing you’ve done so far on 9-1-1?

STARK: I think probably in the tsunami. We shot so much stuff that didn’t even make it into the show of swimming up and down against the current, and even as somebody who enjoys being in the water as much as myself, and I consider myself a good swimmer, it beat the hell out of me. I was so sore the next day, but also filled with this huge sense of achievement.

AX: Were you in a tank for that?

STARK: Yeah, we went down and we shot it in Rosarita, in Mexico. They have these huge tanks that were actually built for TITANIC. So we got to go and recreate Santa Monica Pier in these tanks, and make it happen there.

AX: How deep was the water in the tanks?

STARK: Oh, they’re not actually that deep. I could stand up in it, and it would be at my waist. So …

AX: Has anything been rewritten, either because you said, “You know what, I physically can’t do that,” or you said, “Yes, I can do that, put that in”?

STARK: Our stunt coordinator has come to see that I love doing my stunts. So, thankfully, he goes into these meetings, and he’s like, “Oliver can do that. Oh, what if Oliver did this?” And really champions me. So the fact that I have shown myself to hopefully be capable and definitely willing has resulted in more of those kinds of things being written for me.

AX: What was your first thought when you saw that the 9-1-1 Season 3 opener was going to be a three-parter with a tsunami flooding Santa Monica?

STARK: Literally my first thought, nine times out of ten, when we get a script is, “How do we pull that off?” Thankfully, I’m not the one in charge of making it happen; I just have to show up. We really do have an incredible crew of people that, by the time we turn up to set, it’s all done, it’s all ready for us. And it takes out the whole element of façade and pretending. I just have to turn up, and I have to really be a part of that tsunami.

I think with any show, action is great, and spectacle is fantastic, but it’s when you care about the people involved, then you have a good show, and you have a show where people are going to come back. Because if it’s a martial arts show, and somebody keeps on throwing a kick, you only care about why they’re throwing that kick. I feel like, as the seasons have gone on, and the audience has connected more and more with the characters, and become more invested, I feel like the emergencies become more urgent, because we care about the people involved in them, whether or not they’re going to live or die.

AX: Were you surprised to see Buck’s trajectory go from romance to father figure to rebellious son, in a way, with the lawsuit?

STARK: I don’t know if surprised, but more just, I think we as people are many different things, right, all at the same time. And I don’t know if that’s something that you see on TV all that often. People tend to be one of those things. So to get to kind of dip in and out of them, I think it’s for me as an actor really lucky to get to do that. He can move on from something, and then at some point we see him slip back into it, which is again something that we all do. So it’s a real gift of a part, to get to play these different sides of him and explore different sides.

AX: Why do you think Buck has been so thrown Maddie’s relationship with Buck’s fellow first responder Chimney, played by Kenneth Choi?

STARK: It’s his sister and his best friend. I think that’s a pretty natural reaction. I think he’s coming around to it, slowly but surely. Obviously, his sister’s been through a rough time, and I think he knows that Chimney is a good guy, so he’s moving in the right direction.

AX: Since 9-1-1: LONE STAR is a spinoff of 9-1-1, do you think there will be crossovers?

STARK: There’s potential for it. It’s slightly more difficult than some of the other first-responder shows, because we’re in L.A. and they’re in Austin. But there’s certainly scope for it. Ryan’s character Eddie is from Texas, so he could end up in Texas, he could take some of us with him. There are certainly ways it could play out.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about the rest of 9-1-1 Season 3?

STARK: We’re going to really dive into some of the other characters. I feel like there was a lot of spotlight on Buck at the beginning of the season, and we’re going to see a lot of Chimney, we’re going to see a lot of Maddie, we’re really going to explore everybody’s relationships and see how that all plays out. We’re trying our best to give a really honest depiction of what it’s like to be a first responder, and I hope that any first responders who tune in see a part of themselves in it and understand that, yes, we have to take some artistic license, but we’re trying to honor and pay tribute to what they do every day.

This interview was conducted during Fox’s party for the Winter 2020 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

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Article: Exclusive Interview with actor Oliver Stark on Season 3 of 9-1-1

 

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