Exclusive Interview: Oliver Stark Talks ‘9-1-1’, His Acting Career, and More

Oliver Stark in '9-1-1', courtesy of Jack Zeman/FOX.

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A brilliantly talented British actor making waves on American television — this is Oliver Stark.

Perhaps you know him as Ryder, Baron of the Badlands on AMC’s Into the Badlands, or as Dylan, an eccentric student in the wild sci-fi flick MindGamers. Most importantly, though, it’s quite hard to miss him in his standout role as the beloved firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley on FOX’s procedural drama 9-1-1. From surviving in steampunk post-apocalyptic worlds to fighting fires on the bustling streets of L.A., Stark has proven himself to have a knack for blending into the landscape of various types of roles and genres seamlessly over the course of his career thus far.

Stark’s passion and dedication to his craft shines through unabashedly both in his work and when he discusses it afterward, along with his very candid authenticity both on-screen and off, which makes it impossible to not appreciate and recognize the talent that he brings to the table. And despite his continued rise to fame in recent years, Stark maintains a kind, humble, and down-to-earth attitude from his place in the spotlight.

Even while working alongside the rest of the cast of 9-1-1 — which is full of an array of seasoned, well-known actors — he has truly proven himself, as he manages to be a scene-stealer time and time again in the best of ways. Stark has an incredibly promising amount of potential among his fellow generation of young actors; he’s one of the ones that are bursting at the seams with talent, wavering on the precipice of something big.

Nerds and Beyond had a chance to chat with Stark about his work on 9-1-1 and other various aspects of his acting career. Check out the interview below.

Oliver Stark in ‘9-1-1’, courtesy of FOX.

Nerds and Beyond: You’ve been a part of 9-1-1 since day one, for three seasons now. Looking back over the past few years, how would you describe the personal impact that being on the show has had on your life/career?

Oliver Stark: It just provided me something that I think is quite rare as an actor, which is a level of security, and you know, something that I take with a pinch of salt, as it could go away at any moment. I’m very aware of that in the world of TV. But thus far, it’s felt like … wow, I have a stable job where I get to work with people that I really enjoy their company and I can learn off of. So it’s been a really nice environment for me to kind of take a moment of stability and just learn to enjoy that, and kind of grow as an actor and as a person through the people that I get to work with.

Nerds and Beyond: What would you say is a trait that you have in common with Buck? And what’s something that’s very different about the two of you (besides the whole … fighting fires thing)?

Oliver Stark: I like to think that I have as big a heart as he does — I don’t know if that sounds a bit self-congratulatory — but I hope so. The first thing I think of when I think of Buck is his kind of desire to help people, I think it’s something that I have, and it certainly has increased within me through playing Buck. I think that kind of side of him has rubbed off on me a little bit and helped me grow into that person a little bit more. For our differences, I think that he’s just so confident and seemingly secure in who he is, whereas I spend most of my life as an anxious bundle of nerves. So that’s certainly where we don’t quite match up. But it’s fun to get to explore maybe that hidden side of myself through his confidence, and it’s an interesting thing to get to step into with a character.

Nerds and Beyond: You use a very well-practiced and convincing American accent on 9-1-1, as well as in some of your previous work. When you’re on a break between filming, like right now, do you find that you need to ‘put it into use’ every so often, or does it just come naturally at this point?

Oliver Stark: No, it certainly doesn’t come naturally. It’s something that I have to consciously think about and work on. Some days it’s easier than others when we’re actually working. It’s not something that I really put into practice between seasons, but then, kind of as we start ramping up to start work again and then a couple of weeks before we start shooting, I go into panic mode like, “Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can do it anymore.” So I’ll start working on it more and more, and then hope that by the time we start it was still in there and I was just talking myself out of it.

Nerds and Beyond: It sounded great in every season so far.

Oliver Stark: I have to admit, there’s one time that I was doing some ADR, where you record dialogue after it’s been shot, and I heard a word and I was like, “Hold on, I need to change that, that’s off,” but thankfully I think that’s one of the only times where I’ve certainly caught myself. I’m sure some people will read this and be like, “No, no, no. I’ve heard this that time.”

Nerds and Beyond: I think it shows that you really care about it and you put a lot of effort into it. I’ve heard a lot of bad accents back and forth from all over.

Oliver Stark: I have to admit, it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine when I can tell that somebody’s British when I’m watching something. So it’s a big deal for me, because it’s something that really helps me distance myself from that character as well and feel like I am playing someone else. [It’s] something that I really strive to be able to get close to doing convincingly.

Peter Krause and Oliver Stark in ‘9-1-1’, courtesy of FOX.

Nerds and Beyond: I know that you’ve said before that you like to do your own stunts on the show whenever you can. What are some stunts that you’re particularly proud that you pulled off?

Oliver Stark: About halfway through the second season, I think it was the Halloween episode actually [Episode 7, “Haunted”], there’s a rescue where we have to rappel off the side of a cliff because there’s a hiker who has fallen off. It’s like a 75-foot cliff over rocks in Malibu, and I did that for real. So that was really exciting, it’s something that I kind of said to the director beforehand, like, “Do you need me to do this scene?” “No, but it would be really cool.” I was kind of nervous to do it, and then did it, and was so happy that I got the chance to. I think he sold me on doing it by saying, “I’m gonna start real tight on your face with a drone, and then I’m gonna pull out slow, “and I was like, “Wow that sounds amazing.” That never actually happened, but it did convince me to do the stunt, so that was a lot of fun. And then just anything that they let me do, I always kind of take pride in and enjoy getting to kind of throw myself into that side of it. Because again, it’s something that helps me step from Oliver into Buck, because he’s so gung ho when it comes to that stuff that I’ve kind of learned to be like, “Yeah, I’m gonna do it, too.”

Nerds and Beyond: To know, as a viewer, that you’re actually doing some of these things, it adds to being able to appreciate your talent on screen. 

Oliver Stark: I think it helps sell moments when it doesn’t have to be quick cuts of, “Here’s his face, okay now here’s his body from far away.” If you can show all of that in one shot, I just think it helps sell the moment, and then you as a viewer or me as a viewer feel like, “Wow, that’s really the character that I know, he’s really going into that dangerous situation.” So I think the more that can be the case, the better it is for the show. I have a really great stunt double, a guy called Skyler Millicano, who is so excellent at telling me that I can do it and talking me through it. So it’s a really nice back and forth that the two of us have established. He makes me feel very comfortable when it comes to these things.

Nerds and Beyond: You work with a great team of some very well known actors on 9-1-1. Has there been anything that you’ve learned from any of them over the past few years that’s really stuck with you, as it relates to acting?

Oliver Stark: I think I pick up little things from them every day. I know there was one time where I was laughing with one of the focus pullers about how an actor gets out of a chair. He said to me, “When you get out of a chair…” — this is, I think, in the first season, I’ve learned to control it now — [He said] I kind of lean forward as I get up and then come back, which I think is how most people get out of chairs, but he’s like, “For a focus pullout, I have to like check with you and then come back.” I watched Pete [Krause] get out of a chair, and Pete is like he’s in an elevator. So little skillful tips and tricks like that have been really useful. Then also just, and not that I would conduct myself any other way, but seeing how they conduct themselves on set as professionals. It’s such a lovely environment to work in where everybody is treated lovely and with respect, and there’s nobody that’s above anybody else, and to say hi to every crew member every morning — it’s just a nice environment to work in. It’s kind of been there from the beginning, and for me to get to live in that and know that that’s the way that it should run and feels best to work in, it’s something that I’ll always want to help facilitate.

Nerds and Beyond: I think the environment you’re describing really shows through on the other side, when the episodes are actually airing. You can kind of just see how well all of you work together.

Oliver Stark: I agree with that, I think that I’ve always said one of the selling points of the show is that you can tell that we’re having fun, you can tell that we like each other. And that bleeds through from us with the crew as well — that everybody is happy to be there. We’re having fun doing these things. So then when we as viewers watch it, I think we want to have fun with those people. That’s really one of the things that, as you say, kind of shines through and helps people connect with the show.

Oliver Stark in ‘Into the Badlands’, courtesy of Patti Perret/AMC.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you have any interest in eventually getting involved in or learning more about any other aspects of television or film, like writing or directing?

Oliver Stark: A year or so ago, I would have said no. But I think as I’ve kind of come to understand more about what that other side is through becoming close with people like Tim Minear or our directors, and kind of understand their job a little bit, it is something that I would be interested in. I mean Pete has directed TV episodes before, he’s directed some of Parenthood. Angela [Bassett]’s directed American Horror Story episodes. Jennifer [Love Hewitt]’s directed a couple of her shows. So it’s nice for me to get to see, “Oh okay, this is how the actor steps into that role,” and makes it feel possible. They’ve kind of helped me understand that it’s just another arm of storytelling, so it’s something that I would be interested in at some point. I think I would be more interested, in fact, in directing theater, rather than TV. Where it’s maybe less technical, or technical in a different sense. I’m open to it, but I don’t think it’s something that I’m going to be doing in the next year or two. But maybe ten years from now … definitely.

Nerds and Beyond: Are there any particular films, movies, or actors that have played a part in your inspiration and journey as an actor?

Oliver Stark: I think throughout my years as an actor, there have been different people that I have clung onto their work. Michael Shannon was somebody, in my early years, that I used to watch and be like, “Wow, he’s so effortlessly powerful.” And then even people like, in House of Cards, Robin Wright just does so little, but with such huge effect. Then I started to realize that you can really admire these people and see them as inspiration, but the more you try and be them or take on their style, I don’t think necessarily works for me. You have to find what works for you as an actor, or otherwise you’re doing yourself a disservice and just trying to be something that you’re not going to live up to by doing it their way. So there are certainly people that I watch and admire and think, “Wow that was brilliant,” and maybe I can take little bits from them, but I’ve learned to not be too dependent on trying to imitate them too much.

Nerds and Beyond: You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you’d really like to do a sports movie, which I think would be a great role for you. Outside of that, though, what other genres of film or television would you like to do (or do more of) in the future?

Oliver Stark: I have the most fun shooting 9-1-1, but it’s also a show with a lot of action and a lot of kind of big set pieces. So I would really like to step into something, at some point, that is very small and intimate and really just feels like a character piece. To kind of be able to straddle both worlds would be a really fulfilling thing, I think, as an actor. So it’s not so much a particular role or even really a particular genre, it’s more just about the scale of the piece and the style of it. To be able to do both, 9-1-1 and then maybe my next hiatus when the world is back to normal and we can shoot things again, maybe do something that is on a much more intimate, tight, smaller level, would be a lot of fun.

Marton Csokas and Oliver Stark in ‘Into the Badlands’, courtesy of Antony Platt/AMC.

Nerds and Beyond: What has been one of your favorite or most fulfilling moments of your career as an actor up until this point?

Oliver Stark: It was a weirdly gratifying moment, the day that I got this current job, because as I think I mentioned 10 times already — I tend to be quite an anxious person. I had gone a year, before I got 9-1-1, where I hadn’t worked. I was starting to think maybe I was done, which is just a thing that happens to lots of actors, so that was a bit premature for me to start thinking that. But I did start to wonder if maybe I had my time. I had worked on a show called Into the Badlands, and then it had been a year since I had worked. So in general, I was quite a worrisome person. Then, when 9-1-1 came up and I first auditioned for it, I felt so calm about it. To the point where when I got the call and they said, “You’ve got the job,” I was kind of like — I say this because then I feel like a complete … person who’s too full of himself — but I was kind of, in my head I was thinking  “I know.” I just felt so assured in it, and I think that’s a real gratifying moment for me, because I was able to back myself and believe in myself and know that I had done a good job and think that things were going to go in my direction. I think that was probably one of the first times that I really, truly felt that, to a place where I was able to just sit in it and let this thing come to me. So I kind of taught myself that — not too much so, but to the right degree — that’s a really healthy and acceptable way to think about it.

Nerds and Beyond: How has this year affected or changed your outlook on life?

Oliver Stark: It’s a hard question to answer, because I almost feel like it’s something that I’m not going to be able to process, none of us are going to be able to process, for some time … how it actually affects us. Because I think everybody probably feels what I’m about to say in that some weeks I feel totally fine and like, “You know what, we’re gonna get through this,” and then other weeks you can barely leave the couch. So I think for the real ramifications to be felt, it’s going to take some time. But it’s certainly going to make me appreciate the people around me a lot more, because so many people in this country and around the world have had people around them suddenly taken by this new virus and pandemic. So to hold everybody a little bit closer I think is going to be important. And I’m probably going to shake less hands.

Nerds and Beyond: I don’t blame you.

Oliver Stark: I do wonder if the handshake is, for good reason, a thing of the past. We just need to do the best that we can to keep ourselves, and the at risk people around us, as safe as possible.

Nerds and Beyond: And also people need to wear masks.

Oliver Stark: To me, it just feels like a given. I think it was Tom Hanks who said this, it just seems like the most simple thing to want to keep your community and the people around you safe. To do whatever you can to support that. I’m very against people not wearing masks.

Oliver Stark in ‘9-1-1’, courtesy of FOX.

Nerds and Beyond: When you’re not busy working, what are your favorite things to nerd out to? Are there any particular movie series, television shows, or video games?

Oliver Stark: I watch a lot of reality TV. Like, really the trashiest of trashy. Things like 90 Day Fiancé … and now there’s like 12 spinoffs of it, so it’s on three times a day. That’s taken up a big part of my time in quarantine/stay-at-home. So I watch a lot of reality TV, and then on a more productive level, I’ve started to be much healthier in my food choices and spend more time in the kitchen especially, because I used to order out a lot. I’ve kind of been reluctant to do that, which has been a weird balance of wanting to support local businesses and then also being nervous about doing it because there’s the virus going around. So cooking more, and watching a lot of reality television.

Nerds and Beyond: If you had the opportunity to star in any film franchise ever, past or current, what would it be?

Oliver Star: Lord of the Rings. Although, in my head, I’d be like, “Yeah, I’d be just as cool as them,” but really I’d be totally out of place. But yeah, 100%. Or actually, take two of that would also be the show Black Sails, which was like the coolest thing ever to me. Probably one of my favorite TV shows ever. So either of those worlds, I would happily try and fit myself into.

Follow Oliver Stark on Twitter and Instagram, and for fans of his character on 9-1-1 — make sure to check out our review of Buck’s best moments here. Stark will reprise his role as Evan Buckley in season 4 of 9-1-1, which will arrive sometime in 2021.

Lindsey

Written by

Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, you can find her reading books and comics and dabbling in creative writing. Lindsey’s favourite fandoms are Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel. You can find her on Twitter at @lindyysolo. Contact: directors@nerdsandbeyond.com

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