‘9-1-1’: Oliver Stark Talks Buck After ‘Daunting’ Episode, Plus What Was Cut 

Oliver Stark in '9-1-1'
Spoiler Alert
Jack Zeman/ FOX

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for 9-1-1 Season 6 Episode 11, “In Another Life.”]

9-1-1 is all about Buck (Oliver Stark) in the episode following that cliffhanger of him getting struck by lightning.

While Buck’s in a coma in the hospital, we go into his head and see what he’s experiencing, specifically a dream in which he’s not a firefighter, his brother Daniel never died, and Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is still with the abusive Doug (Brian Hallisay). And before he can come out of it, he must face off with himself.

Stark breaks down the episode and teases who Buck is going forward.

Talk about reading the script. It’s such a different episode for Buck, especially exploring the “what if” with his brother surviving.

Oliver Stark: Yeah, it was quite daunting, to be honest with you, just because I felt like it was such a huge episode, and it’s really a departure for the show. It’s quite an experimental episode, and I just really wanted to be able to do what I thought was a really brilliant script justice, and so I’m really happy to see it now all come together. I think it’s a really good episode. It almost felt like I was shooting a different show for a little bit. It’s not necessarily the standard 9-1-1 episode, so it was a really enjoyable and collaborative experience.

Speaking of filming, the Buck you’re playing is not a firefighter. You do eventually work with the same people as usual but in different ways, and Buck is trying to relate to them in the same way, but they’re like, who are you?

Yeah, it’s almost like lucid dreaming, where you know you’re in a dream, but you can’t necessarily get out of it. So it was really fun to get to interact with these characters but have them not know who he was, in particular, the early scenes with Hen [Aisha Hinds] and Chimney [Kenneth Choi]. I really enjoyed when Buck is having in the real world difficulty breathing [it’s] mirrored in his coma world, and Hen and Chimney are discussing if I’m a crazy person while I’m just there struggling to breathe the whole time. It was really fun to get to swap positions and change up the relationships.

Buck says when he wakes up, Hen is pretty much the same. And it’s true.

Yeah, because if you think about it, Buck has been there for these quite profound changes in most of their lives. But I think when it comes to the Buck and Hen relationship that we’ve seen over the years, it’s often her being there for him and helping guide him. So even though she’s obviously impacted by knowing him, it’s not necessarily the same kind of personality or situation-altering way.

Oliver Stark in '9-1-1'


It’s also what he needed at the time in his subconscious. He needed Hen to be Hen.

Absolutely. It’s kind of her that breaks it down for him and starts to work things out where she says, “this isn’t a different reality, this is in your head, and the reason that you are running out of time here is because essentially, you are dying in the real world. So we better get to this.”

The Buck-Bobby (Peter Krause) scenes, whether in the coma dream or the one at the end, were so good.

I’m always a huge fan of any time there’s Buck and Bobby content. From the first season, that’s been such an important relationship, and one that I know myself and Peter both really enjoy playing, and both feel very safe and comfortable to just explore it and let things happen. So I was really delighted with the opportunities, especially in the coma dream, to get to do those scenes with him. He’s such a great scene partner and really helps make me feel comfortable. I was really happy with how they turned out.

Especially because in the coma dream, Buck wanted Bobby to be Bobby, but Buck kind of had to be Bobby because it was all Buck.

Right. That’s it. There was actually, at one point, a version of the script where, once he figured it out and we’d seen Daniel transform into Buck, there were going to be these little pops where you replay some of the previous scenes from the episode, but it was always Buck talking to Buck. Buck was there dressed in Chimney’s clothes, Buck was there dressed in Hen’s clothes because they are, at this point, all figments of his coma imagination. So yeah, it is important to remember once you look back that all those interactions he was, in fact, having with himself.

We do see one interaction with himself. Talk about filming that.

Yeah, it was weird. I got to do it with my friend and, in fact, stunt double, Skyler Millicano, who I have great trust with. He’s been my stunt double since the pilot, so we’ve been through a lot together. They said to me, do I know another actor that’s kind of my build that could play opposite me? I was like, let’s get Skyler in this because I feel totally comfortable with him, and I know he’ll be up for the challenge of it. So it was interesting for me because I guess the challenge was that I’m playing Buck on both sides of it, but I’m playing a different part of Buck’s psyche at that moment. So what slight changes can I make? Does he move slightly differently to differentiate between the two?

Thanks to the coma dream, Buck does come to some key revelations. I liked the “I was Buck.” “That’s enough?” “I think it is.” exchange. What would it have taken for Buck to come to those revelations without this?

Maybe he wouldn’t have. Maybe he would have been constantly looking for something and looking for exterior validation, as we’ve seen him do so many times. Maybe this is what it took for him to get to a point where he goes, “no, I’m doing just fine,” and as you say, “I am enough.”

Oliver Stark in '9-1-1'


Who is Buck moving forward?

He’s going to struggle, especially at first, just with the idea that he came so close to dying, and so he’s going to struggle with the idea of mortality and what does it all mean. But then I think following the struggle, there’s potential for peace and for him to feel a little more grounded. Once you’ve accepted that things can come to an end at any point, why not just enjoy while you still can and take ownership of your decisions, and be the best version of yourself that you can be?

Speaking of versions, because we’ve heard of like Buck 2.0, what version is he now? Just Buck?

[Laughs] I think we’re on about version 7.3? There’s constantly an update file being told that you need to download, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. He is in his early 30s, and he’s figuring things out about himself and using them as chances to upgrade who he believes he is. I think that’s only a good thing at this point.

We won’t see anything different from him on the job, right? He could not have predicted he’d be struck by lightning.

I think there’s going to be some hesitation about how quickly he wants to go back. But I think once he gets back, we’re probably going to find him with some new skills because of what he’s been through.

Will Buck be on calls in Episode 6×12?

Not in 612. There’s a little bit more recovery ahead first. … I think by 6×13, he’ll be back around the firehouse.

Early this season, we saw him want to be interim captain while Bobby was out. Is that coming up again now that he has time to think about it while recovering?

Yeah, I don’t think that’s a thought that’s going anywhere from his head anytime soon. He’s going to want to step into that role, and towards the end of the season, he’s going to have some opportunities too, and he’s going to be forced to in some senses. So yeah, he’s a bit rough around the edges, but there is a sense of him being a leader. He’s obviously very adept at his job, and I think all these experiences that he’s going through are only helping shape him into a better leader. We saw Bobby say to him at the start of the season that he just needs to live a little bit more life. We’ve certainly seen him doing that across the season so far.

He was the sperm donor for his friends, which has had him thinking about his own future as a father. And it seems like he might be getting a new couch, a piece of furniture he’s associated with girlfriends before. What’s his personal life like going forward?

I think the main thing for him is that anybody that he is to become romantically entwined with has to meet him where he is. He’s not going to sacrifice or compromise who he is. He’s becoming very settled in himself, and if the person that he ends up partnering up with isn’t OK with that, then they’re just not the right person. He’s not going to try and fit anybody else’s box anymore. He’s going to be comfortable with who he is, and anybody that comes along has to be equally as comfortable with that.

That’s a healthy perspective for him to have after what we’ve seen so far.

Yeah, absolutely. He’s always been looking for other people to shape him or validate him. And so it’s really nice for me — ‘cause listen, I’m a fan of Buck — to see him get to a place that I think is much healthier.

What else is coming up for Buck? Who will he be leaning on?

He’s going to have more people at first, I think, wanting to be leaned on by him. He’s almost going to get so many offers of support that it’s going to become a bit too much for him, and as important as it is for him to learn to lean on others, we’ve seen him do that a lot. I think more than anything, actually, he’s going to learn to lean on himself a little bit and look inwardly rather than outwardly when it comes to needing a crutch of support.

9-1-1, Mondays, 8/7c, Fox