“9-1-1” star Oliver Stark wants audiences to know that the show strives for realism. And in particular, that it was created as a tribute to the tireless efforts of firefighters like his character, Evan Buckley, who put their lives on the line to help others.
In an interview last year with Assignment X, Stark spoke to the show’s connection with first responders, and to what it means to the actors on “9-1-1” to portray those frontline workers year in and year out.
“We’re trying our best to give a really honest depiction of what it’s like to be a first responder,” Stark said. “And I hope that any first responders who tune in see a part of themselves in it and understand that, yes, we have to take some artistic license. But we’re trying to honor and pay tribute to what they do every day.”
‘9-1-1’ Actor Says They’re Trying to Show ‘Reality’ of Firefighting
Most people don’t fully understand the nature of a firefighter’s work day, Stark explained. But he said “9-1-1” tries to translate their reality to viewers by depicting realistic scenarios.
“Eighty percent of calls to firefighters in L.A. deal with the medical,” Stark said. “And I feel like that’s not something that’s often represented. So I feel like we’re trying to keep it in the realm of reality, and show that.”
When firefighters respond to a call, he added, “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.”
Like Real Firefighters, Stark Does His Own Stunts
Most of the dangerous action on “9-1-1,” such as a tsunami that flooded Santa Monica, is pure fiction. It’s created with the help of a professional crew, careful camera angles and stunt coordinators. But some of the actors, and Stark in particular, prefer to do the stunts themselves.
So when they shot that tsunami sequence, they went down to Mexico and got into tanks that were built for the making of “Titanic.” (As opposed to, say, the actual Santa Monica pier.) But Stark still insisted on doing his own stunts. That included swimming against the current, which he said “beat the hell out of me.”
“Our stunt coordinator has come to see that I love doing my stunts,” Stark said. “So, thankfully, he goes into these meetings, and he’s like, ‘Oliver can do that. Oh, what if Oliver did this?’ And really champions me. So the fact that I have shown myself to hopefully be capable and definitely willing has resulted in more of those kinds of things being written for me.”
In a way, that eagerness to bear the physical burden of portraying a firefighter onscreen is a testament to the shared commitment to realism on “9-1-1.” And as Stark said, he considers his mission accomplished if first responders can watch the show and see themselves in his character’s struggles.