‘9-1-1’: Oliver Stark Explains How Show Portrays the ‘Reality’ of Firefighters

by Suzanne Halliburton
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When Oliver Stark joined the cast of 9-1-1 as firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley, he was a guy in his mid-20s from London. He didn’t have any life experience as a first responder.

He’d been in Into the Badlands, a sci-fi/martial arts kind of show. But there was nothing in his background for firefighters. So how do you prepare to play a guy who is in the middle of so many, ripped-from-the-headlines, rescues?

Stark discussed this during an interview in an interview last year with AssignmentX. He talked about the overall approach 9-1-1 takes for the firefighting scenes and what he did for Buck, his character.

“We didn’t do any structured, set-up-by-the studio training,” Stark said. “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. I could train for aesthetics, or I could train to be capable.

“So I took the kind of training that a firefighter would do,” Stark said. “So I did a lot of carrying heavy stuff around, and a lot of running, basically. It was difficult, but it was really rewarding.”

Stark also said he learned a ton just by watching 9-1-1 star Peter Krause, who plays Bobby Nash, the caption of the 118. It’s the simple things.

One day, Stark watched Krause get out of a chair. There’s an art to it. And Krause picked that up after starring on network TV series since the late 1990s.

9-1-1 also is different from other so-called firefighter series because it shows scenes with more than just firemen. The show also makes the paramedics a major part of the show. Plus, dispatchers, who take the first calls, are featured. On the show, Buck’s older sister is Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) who plays one of the dispatchers.

“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,” Stark said. “So I feel like we’re trying to keep it in the realm of reality, and show that.”

He said that when firefighters go out on 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.”

9-1-1 still is the top-rated scripted series on Fox. Monday night’s episode drew an audience of nearly 5 million. It finished third in its time slot, with The Voice and the CBS comedy The Neighborhood drawing more viewers. However, for the evening, 9-1-1 finished second behind The Voice, for all Monday shows, in the key 18-to-49 demo.