Warning: This story contains spoilers from the Monday, March 6, episode of 9-1-1.
“We’ve kind of watched these first responders and those closest to them for five or six seasons now and although death has always been a possibility, it’s never — obviously they have been through some death-defying experiences — but we’ve never really put anybody right on the precipice of it,” Stark, 31, exclusively told Us Weekly. “And having now done that, I think mortality and just the possibility of death is much more present in everybody’s minds. Which then leads to deeper care and maybe hanging onto those that we can’t.”
The Monday, March 6, episode, aptly titled “In a Flash,” saw a dry thunderstorm roll into Los Angeles, causing a series of emergencies for the 118 to handle. While much of the episode focused on the theme of hope and family, the final moments saw Stark’s Buck stop breathing after being struck by lightning as his fellow first responders desperately tried and revive him.
For the England native, it’s a challenge that he’s proud to take on after starring on the Fox hit since it premiered in 2018 — and one he says the show has carefully been crafting for quite some time.
“[Co-showrunner] Kristen [Reidel] called me and told me about it. She said it’s something they’ve been thinking about working towards for a little while,” he told Us. “I think more than anything I felt almost a sense of pride and that this is a character where they know if they go down this road with him, that people are gonna care about it. I was excited to hopefully try my best to rise to the occasion and let the story unfold.”
Buck’s accident — in which Stark says fans shouldn’t “assume that he survives” — will alter not only 9-1-1’s storytelling, but the world of every character for the rest of the season.
“The show is certainly gonna make some experimental choices going forward,” he explained. “It’s certainly gonna have a profound impact on not just [Buck], but those around him and the way the world of 9-1-1 looks through the eyes of [everyone].”
One of the characters most affected by the tragic event is Eddie Diaz (Ryan Guzman), whose normally even-tempered nature will be tested due to his deep “care” for his partner and longtime best friend.
“[Eddie is] going to have a chance, particularly in the next episode, to really break out his shell a little bit in terms of dealing with his emotions,” Stark shared with Us. “We’ve always seen him as quite a stoic character. He’s always kept himself in check and tried to be in command of those emotions. And every now and then he’s seen that breakthrough. For example, when he smashed off his bedroom and was dealing with his PTSD. But for the most part, he’s always been somebody who’s tried to stuff those emotions down. It’s nice to see him start to break out of that shell cause of his care for Buck and for those around him.”
Buck and Eddie have been building a friendship since Guzman, 35, joined the cast during the season 2 premiere. While the duo initially “bumped heads” in Eddie’s first episode, co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear made it clear to Stark early on that the pair “squaring up” with each other wasn’t something he was interested in seeing onscreen for very long.
“[Tim] said to me, ‘I don’t want to prolong that for too long, and I don’t want to keep that going. I think that’s quite boring. We’ve seen that so many times before,’” Stark explained, adding that he was “excited” to quickly “move past” the enemy dynamic into more friendly territory.
“Then immediately we had the earthquake episodes and we have Buck driving Eddie at the end of those episodes to go and pick up Christopher,” he continued. “And I think that moment in itself was very meaningful. Eddie has a car he could have driven himself, but Buck was obviously wanting to extend an honest branch because of the things that they’ve been through. I think from that moment on it was pretty clear that they were willing to be a part of each other’s lives.”
The relationship between Buck and Eddie — labeled “Buddie” by fans — has been a favorite among viewers. Stark, for his part, believes their popularity is due to the twosome’s “fun energy” that is “equally balanced with a deeper level of understanding and being there for each other.”
Buck has also become a pseudo coparent figure for Eddie’s son, Christopher (Gavin McHugh), over the years, after his mother was hit by a car.
“They’ve both become quite embedded in each other’s lives,” the Hard Tide star said. “I think they’ve kind of bonded and connected on so many levels, whether it be work, their personal lives and then add in that kind of fun dynamic where they clearly do just get on well. I think it’s just a nice recipe for a good relationship, however you choose to see it.”
While Eddie will find himself struggling to deal with his emotions over Buck’s fate, 9-1-1 is known for weaving lighter moments into the series amid the darkness. For Stark, that ability to strike tonal shifts is one of the show’s greatest strengths.
“I don’t know if it’s a British thing, but when there are dark or dramatic moments, but they’re undercut with a moment of silliness … just something to undercut tension and let it breathe because I think that’s a very human thing,” he gushed. “In general when things get too heavy, we actually make light of it. So, I think that’s probably my favorite aspect of the show. It never seems to take itself too seriously for too long.”
While his future on the series may still be up in the air, there are some members of the 118 the Dracula alum would love to share more screen time with, especially Aisha Hinds, who portrays Hen. As for what he’d like to see for his character’s own personal journey?
“Ownership of his decisions, ownership of his emotions. I think that is his journey moving forward. He would hope. I would hope,” he told Us.
9-1-1 airs on Fox Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.