‘9-1-1’ Star Oliver Stark on Buck’s Sexuality and That Life-Changing Yet ‘Earned’ Story in the 100th Episode

‘9-1-1’ Star Oliver Stark on Buck’s Sexuality and That Life-Changing Yet ‘Earned’ Story in the 100th Episode

  • By michael@trendteeshirts.com
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Apart from a sticky synergy stunt at the Bachelor mansion, the 100th episode of “9-1-1” didn’t feature any emergencies that rival the most off-the-wall disasters the show has experienced during its seven-season run. But it did conclude with potentially the most shocking moment the Ryan Murphy-produced first-responder show has ever seen: a kiss between the ostensibly straight Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark) and another male character.

With a good-sized portion of the “9-1-1” fan base having shipped Buck and his heterosexual best friend Eddie (Ryan Guzman) as a romantic couple since well before the show made its jump from Fox to ABC this season, the fact this man was not Eddie, but Eddie’s new buddy Tommy Kinard (Louis Ferrigno Jr.), will probably throw them for a loop.

Those audience members might take comfort in knowing that Stark himself didn’t know that this kiss between Buck and Tommy — and the promise of a date to come — would be occurring, he tells Variety, until “9-1-1” had already begun shooting Season 7.

“I wasn’t so much told, as asked,” Stark said, recalling the pitch call he received from series co-creator Tim Minear around Episode 3 of this season. “He had already been in contact with Lou, who plays Tommy — he wanted to know that he was on board before bringing it to me. So not with too much notice he said, ‘I think this is the most truthful way to continue Buck’s storyline.’ And I said, ‘I 100% agree.’”

Stark says this queer love storyline for Buck “is going to be great” as it continues through coming episodes. “I think it’s deserved and I think it’s earned — and I am excited to to get the chance to tell it,” he said.

Read more from Variety‘s interview with Stark about “9-1-1’s” 100th episode in the Q&A below.Tommy (Louis Ferrigno Jr.) and Eddie (Ryan Guzman) on “9-1-1” — Disney/Chris Willard

When I was watching the episode, I second guessed my instincts that Buck and Tommy were going to kiss until it actually happened — and I think other fans might, too, because we’ve never actually seen Buck in an LGBTQ light. What do you expect the reaction will be to the kiss?

The way you describe going through the episode and having some uncertainty — “Where is this headed?” — I think is quite intentional. And that’s Buck’s journey throughout the episode. I don’t think at any point he is conscious of what he might be feeling. We’ve kind of build it as this jealousy, and I don’t think he’s necessarily jealous of anyone — he just has these new feelings, and doesn’t quite know what word to use or how to comprehend what he’s actually feeling. And then the payoff at the end is lovely. And when I watch it, it makes me feel really emotional. It’s such a release for Buck and this, quote unquote, “Oh!” moment. And it is this moment of not just release, but relief.

As to what the fans are going to think of it, I don’t know. But I mean that in a great way: Like, it’s almost none of my business. As the actor, if you get too caught up in what the reaction is going to be, you’re probably going to get yourself into dangerous territory. The most efficient way, or the most sensible way to deal with it, is to just focus on the moment and find something that feels truthful while we’re making the show. And then if people love it, that’s fantastic. And if they take issue with it, you know — that’s also fine. That’s the point in making these things.

Obviously, I hope they like it, but if they don’t, I still feel like we told a truthful story for Buck in these episodes.“Bachelor” crossover with “9-1-1” — Disney/Chris Willard

What was shooting “The Bachelor” crossover emergency at the actual Bachelor mansion with Jesse Palmer and Joey Graziadei like? That’s definitely not something you could have done before “9-1-1” switched from Fox to ABC.

I loved it. I didn’t realize until maybe the day before that we were shooting at the actual Bachelor mansion. So I think I said probably three times that day, “Wait, we’re really going to the Bachelor mansion?” And not because it’s a show that I’ve watched every season of, but I’ve seen episodes and I think it’s a cool format. And it’s obviously an iconic show. So that we got to go there and get to be a part of it and incorporate it into ours was an honor, really.

One of the most fun aspects for me is that we had two film crews. So we had our crew, which shot post-emergency. But all the stuff before we come in, the “Bachelor” crew actually shot so that it would feel 100% like an episode of “The Bachelor.” I thought Joey Graziadei and Jesse Palmer did a great job. I really enjoy watching them in the episode. Obviously, Jesse, as a host is slightly more used to being on camera in a formal situation. But I thought Joey did a really great job, too.

It makes me question the moments in “The Bachelor” — are you guys just acting, because you were really good at that?Bobby (Peter Krause) and “Bachelor” host Jesse Palmer on “9-1-1” — Disney/Chris Willard

What comes next for Buck? Is he telling Maddie, Eddie and the 118 about his new romance with Tommy? Will there be a “coming out” episode?

The focus was on it being important, but also not wanting it to feel like the bravest episode in television. We just wanted to tell a lighthearted love story that happens to be a queer love story. It’s an element, but it’s not everything.

He’ll obviously have some questions for himself, and for others — and you’re right, he will absolutely go to Maddie and talk these things out and other people within the 118, and he’ll get different reactions. Some will be surprised, and some will not be so surprised. But it’s very true to the world of “9-1-1” that he will lean on those around him, and will receive the support that he needs.

Buck (Oliver Stark) on “9-1-1” — Disney/Mike Taing

You said you were “asked” rather than told about the new storyline for Buck. So do you think Tim Minear would have changed plans if you didn’t think it was the right move for Buck?

Tim has always been a fantastic collaborator, and he wants to involve us and is aware that the show is at its best when everybody’s on the same page and when he’s excited about what he’s writing and when the actors are excited about what they’re playing. So maybe I’m naive in thinking this, but I do believe he was actually asking me, and not secretly telling. It was then really nice to continue to collaborate on the story with him throughout the episode, and then throughout Episode 5 and him call me saying “All right, I’ve got this idea now.” And to have scenes come day by day instead of waiting for a whole script and feel his excitement, like, “I have just finished the scene, read this one.” It was really nice as the actor to feel like he was really invested in telling the story the right way. But also just invested in the excitement of telling it.Tommy Kinard (Louis Ferrigno Jr.) on “9-1-1” Disney/Chris Willard

How early on in production did you shoot the kiss scene from the final moments of the episode? And what was that experience like for you and Lou?

Pretty early, because the way the episodes tend to work is anything that we shoot on the sound stages get shot first, because we don’t have to secure locations. So it was probably the second or third day of the episode. And I don’t really know Lou, and our characters had never met before the previous episode. I’ve met him very, very briefly a couple of years ago when he was on Season 2. So that was pretty early on into knowing him we shot this.

We had a phone call the day before and discussed how we thought the scene might go, and in actual fact it didn’t really play out the way I thought it might. The way that I felt shooting it wasn’t necessarily the way I had felt like Buck was going to react. It became far more emotional than I expected it to. But that’s one of the joys of this job, and of being an actor, is finding those moments as they happen and having the freedom to explore them and go with them.

You end up shooting these things from all angles 20 or 30 times. But the performance can change throughout those as well. It can feel like something at the beginning of shooting. And maybe you unlock something else as you go on. And that’s part of the fun of it, and then you hand it over and it’s no longer your property. And Tim and the director and the editors stitch together our performance, and then we watch it on TV.

TK (Ronen Rubinstein) and Carlos (Rafael Silva) on “9-1-1: Lone Star” — Kevin Estrada/Fox

With “9-1-1” and spinoff “Lone Star” now on different networks, what are your hopes for how the two might still support each other or collaborate?

Honestly, I don’t really know how that will work. On a personal level, I know plenty of their cast, some better than others, I’m excited to watch them come back on and do amazingly well. I haven’t watched every episode of the show, but I’ve watched a good amount and especially this year. In fact, Tim would send me specific episodes. For example, Chad Lowe directed Episode 4 of “9-1-1,” and he’s done a number of “Lone Star” episodes so he would send me some of those episodes, just episodes that he was really proud of. So I’ve watched a lot more of it this year and I think it’s a really great show and I’m excited for them to come back. I don’t know in what capacity we could ever be involved in that but I wish them nothing but total success.

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