When you think of 9-1-1, you think of the fantastic characters that have inhabited this universe for the past five seasons. And Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley is probably one of the first that comes to mind.
Buck has been through the wringer, but his character development from the 9-1-1 Season 1 lothario with a heart of gold to the man he is today has been one of the best of the series.
There’s a reason why Buck is such a fan favorite, and a lot of that has to do with his portrayer, Oliver Stark, who took some time out of his day to speak with me about everything from 9-1-1 to what he’s currently watching, and whether or not he’d like to get back on the theater stage someday.
There was lots of laughter during this chat and deep insight from the charismatic Stark. It was an absolute pleasure to speak with him, and I hope you enjoy this one, 9-1-1 fanatics!
The end of 9-1-1 Season 5 saw some significant changes for Buck. Fresh off his breakup with Taylor, which Stark described as a “big step,” he’ll be looking to grow within his role at the 118 when season six begins.
“He’s reading self-help books. He’s also just trying to prove to the people around him, especially within the 118, that he’s trying to step it up and show himself to be deserving of more responsibility,” Stark states.
Stepping into this season, Buck is a role that Stark is now intimately familiar with at this point. But I wondered if he feels totally in tune with Buck now or if he still needs time to step back into those firefighter boots.
“I do feel that way, that I’m totally in tune with him,” Stark stated. “However, I’m always cautious of taking my foot off the gas and becoming too complacent. But to be honest with you, me and Buck have been on such a journey together. I feel like I genuinely am experiencing some things in my own life at the same time as he is on the show.
“So it never feels like too much of a jump to get back into his shoes, and, funny, once actually putting on the blues of the 118 uniform, it always comes back very quickly and feels as if we were never away.”
Buck is one of the more integrated characters, and he’s got a host of different dynamics on the show, allowing Stark to work with so many amongst the talented cast. But there is a particular dynamic that Stark really enjoys, and it also happens to be one that he wishes we got more of.
“I’ve always loved Buck and Bobby. And I think it was such a strong part of the show in the early seasons, the Bobby and Buck dynamic. Where you know, Buck looks at Bobby as an almost father figure. And I think Bobby looks at Buck almost as if he was a son. And I’ve always loved seeing those two characters together.
“So I do wish that there was a little bit more of that because it kind of went away as Bobby got married. He had his own family, so it was to be expected. But it is something that we start to tap into in early season six again. And I’m so happy to see that coming back to the show.”
Another dynamic Stark would love to see explored more is the lovable Buck and Hen duo.
“I just think that they are really a surprisingly chaotic duo together. And I always have such a great time getting to work with Aisha,” Starks said.
While 9-1-1 is known for the big emergencies, this season will start with a blimp disaster that may not have the same high-level intensity as the tsunami and earthquake arcs from earlier seasons but will still have a ton of action.
For Stark, there’s not necessarily one specific emergency or disaster he’s interested in covering. “It’s funny because we have, I feel like, covered so many at this point,” he said.
“We’re lucky enough to have gone six seasons, and we’ll have 96 episodes by the end of the season. So I don’t envy the writers having to come up with new ones.
“I think the emergencies that I like best, so therefore would like to see more of, are the ones where the characters get to have something in their own life reflected in the emergency itself.
“I don’t think there’s a specific emergency I’d like to see, but I always love the ones where the 118 or Athena or Maddie on the end of the phone gets to realize something about their own life because of what the victim is going through.”
With five seasons down, Buck has had numerous different storylines that would be worth revisiting. But there’s one, in particular, Stark wouldn’t mind the show returning to the forefront.
“I think something that is always in the background because it was so meaningful to Buck is the relationship or lack of relationship with his parents,” Stark told me. “I also love the two actors who came in to play my mom and dad in the show so much.
“So I would love it at some point there’s a reason for them to come back around, and we get to play with their angst that they bring up in him and the kind of childhood torment that he’s suffered through, and see if he’s in a better place to maybe deal with some of that, having gone through what he’s gone through more recently.”
Whether or not we see the infamous Buckley’s this season remains to be seen, but we will see an intriguing journey for Buck.
As Stark described it, “I think he’s going to find himself in some predicaments that he would never have expected, and being put in situations by people that he never saw coming. And he’s going to have to really start to question what he wants for his life because of those things that are put to him.”
That’s a rather ominous response, and I told him as much, to which his response was a very quick, “Good. We like ominous.”
Six seasons on television is a major accomplishment these days, as there is more television than ever, and it’s hard to find your place in the everchanging television climate. 9-1-1 has amassed an enormous following since its debut, which is something Stark contributes to the characters.
“I think when you watch the show, you want to be with the people onscreen,” Stark explained. “You want to ride in the back of the truck with the 118, or you want to sit in the break room with Maddie or ride around in the patrol car with Athena.
“I just think we’ve come to love the characters so much that that’s the real reason people watch the show, and then the action supplements that and gives more of a kick, maybe.
“But I think the core relationships are the reason that the show has continued to do so well because it just looks like a fun time, and we watch the people that we’d actually love to hang out with.”
Along with the series’ popularity, Buck is beloved amongst the fans, who can relate to the firefighter in many ways.
“I think there’s something about the fact that he is so relentless,” Stark replied when asked how viewers connect with Buck.
“It’s been said in the show, and I think it’s true, he’s such a golden retriever that I think it’s just nice to see somebody so emotionally vulnerable and put themselves out there time and time again regardless of the results.”
Buck’s also got a huge heart, which affects Stark, who stated, “I find it, myself, inspiring, and I find him rubbing off on me and me wanting to become a better person through playing him.”
Switching gears from 9-1-1, Stark talked about his love of theater, which is a significant part of his acting career.
He began his career attending the North London Performing Arts Centre and has several theatrical credits on his resume.
“I would love to do some theater,” Stark replied when asked whether he misses the stage and the differences between the stage and primetime television. “It would very much have to be the right thing, such a time commitment, but I can’t imagine myself never doing that again. So, absolutely, yes.
“And it’s so much more immediate. Obviously, you’re playing something through from start to finish, and there’s an audience there that feeds you energy and responds in the moment. So I think that’s the main way that, day to day, it would feel different.
“There are different technicalities involved, but I think the immediate feedback from an audience is the main difference.”
If a stage role involved being an athlete, that could be tempting for Stark, whose dream role would be crafted around that profession.
“I’ve always wanted to play something where I get to be an athlete,” he said. “I think because, in my head, I like to think that that could have been my career, maybe naively and ignorantly. But instead, I just live out my dream by doing it on screen.
“So, yeah, I’ve always wanted to play some kind of athlete. I don’t even mind what the sport is. I think that would be so much fun, and I get to explore a part of myself that I’ve always been interested in.”
9-1-1 keeps Stark plenty busy, and while he’s firmly entrenched in Buck’s shoes right now, he still has time to unwind and catch up with some of the current television fare.
“I just finished The Bear on Hulu,” Stark stated. “It was so good. It was like the anxiety brought out of me but in the best way. I felt like I was there in the kitchen, sweating alongside them. So that was a really great one for me.
“And then something that I can always turn on, I like to, and in complete contrast to The Bear, I like to watch lighthearted things as well. So I recently finished Our Flag Means Death on HBO, which is just a really lovely watch, very heartwarming and funny. So, yeah, I would say those have been the two I’ve been watching as of late.”
One thing we’ll all be watching very soon is the season premiere of 9-1-1 Season 6. And when asked to describe the early parts of season six in three words, Stark gave me, “Quirky, fun, and explosive.”
9-1-1 Season 6 premieres on September 19. And airs on Mondays at 8/7c on FOX
***This interview has been edited for length and clarity.***
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.