‘9-1-1’ Star Oliver Stark on Buck’s Emotional Journey in Season 6 – Self-Help Books and Life Mentors Included

The actor also previews Monday night’s emergency, taking place at a happiness convention, which sends his character “spiraling a little bit”

9-1-1 actor Oliver Stark headshot
Credit: Wil Cohen

In Fox’s “9-1-1,” Buck is the 118’s resident messy firefighter. Portrayed by Oliver Stark, audiences have watched the self-assured (and at times, arrogant) 30-something flail through relationships, work drama and finding a reliable couch. 

However, the sixth-season premiere marked a potential turning point for the character: faced with the setback that Bobby (Peter Krause) will not name him interim captain while he’s on vacation, Buck strove to prove himself tenfold. It’s a decision that Stark said is emblematic of the emotional journey the character has been on for the past five seasons.

“[Buck has] got some really big decisions coming his way. He’s attaching these mottos to his life, and then it’s one thing in theory, and he’s gonna very quickly realize [it’s] maybe a different thing in practice,” the actor said, previewing Monday night’s episode, which will follow an emergency at a happiness convention that will stir some strong feelings.

Read on for TheWrap’s Q&A with Stark, where he talks about the evolution of “reader Buck” and what’s up with the potential will-they-won’t-they romance between Lucy (Arielle Kebbel) and the character.

TheWrap: In the Season 6 premiere, Buck is gunning for interim captain but he’s told by Bobby he’s not ready yet, which mirrors past conversations they’ve had. How is Buck going to process that moving forward, and what kind of growing does he need to do?

OS: I think it actually provides an opportunity to show the growth that he already had been through in the sense that we’ve seen him act out when things hadn’t gone his way before, whereas the only acting out that he does in retaliation to this decision is that he tried to prove himself harder. He works hard because of it, and he tries to show up especially, which aren’t necessarily bad things. Over the next few episodes, we’ll see that continue as he really listens to what Bobby has said to him and tries to look at ways he can implement into his own life that does show Bobby that he’s on the right path and that he is listening and learning.

What can you say about the potential romance between Lucy and Buck in Season 6, now that Buck and Taylor broke up in the Season 5 finale?

I don’t know, but I don’t think there’s really anything of substance there. I believe that when she came in, neither Buck nor Lucy knew that they would become such a part of each other’s lives, so it was almost a catalyst in Buck realizing that maybe he wasn’t in the right relationship. But she’s still out with a broken leg, so there hasn’t been any opportunity for that to grow. But it will be interesting to see if there is anything there once she does, at some point, return to the 118, but I think it was a little more of a flash in the pan kind of moment between the two of them back in Season 5.

You’ve spoken before about Buck needing to learn how to be OK with himself rather than seeking validation from other people or other things. Do you think we’ll see that for him this season?

Yeah, absolutely. Over the next couple of episodes, in fact, we’re going to really get a chance to look at the ‘reader Buck’ who’s taking on all these different self-help books and really trying to find the thing that he’s looking for. I don’t think he knows which direction he’s headed in, but he knows there’s something he needs, so we’re gonna see him try out a different couple of life mentors, as it were.

What can viewers expect from your character and the 118 as a whole over the trajectory of Season 6?

One of the things that I’m really excited about this season is it’s really taking its time and developing some of these characters and relationships even more. The spotlight is kind of lingering over people a little bit longer. For example, we get a whole load of wonderful story[telling] around Hen and Karen and their relationship, and it’s really taken the time to fill these things out even more and let people thrive within those relationships. More specifically about Buck, he’s got some really big decisions coming his way. He’s attaching these mottos to his life, and then it’s one thing in theory, and he’s gonna very quickly realize [it’s] maybe a different thing in practice.

Season 6 starts off with a bang — literally, with a blimp crash. What can you tease about future emergencies the 118 will have to respond to?

An emergency in the upcoming episode is set at a happiness convention, which was a really fun day to be around but it has really disastrous consequences. It was fun for me as an actor because it is something that really hits Buck very hard and sends him spiraling a little bit. And I always enjoy when the emergencies really take their toll on the 118, and then in Episode 4, for stunt reasons, there was a really fun one, where I get to hop on a bicycle and ride around L.A., [which] I love and really threw myself into. Anytime I get to show some athleticism or that side of myself — the fact that I got to cycle around so much and chase some things down was really a lot of fun for me.

What’s your favorite part about Buck’s emotional journey?

[To play] someone who’s clearly grown up with this macho idea of what it is to be a man and to be a hero, but to move away from that and watch him fall deeper into his more vulnerable and sensitive side and embrace that and the strengths that come with that and bring it all together in one character is really a joy for me.

“9-1-1” airs on Fox on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT.