Oliver Stark had no idea what he was getting himself into when he signed up for 9-1-1.
The British actor stars as firefighter Evan "Buck" Buckley on FOX's first responder procedural drama, a character that has easily become a fan-favorite amongst the show's rabid viewers.
"When I got the job I didn't really know anything. They didn't have scripts available for us to view yet," Stark explains to ET during a break from filming the season two finale in Los Angeles. "I didn't really know what the part was other than Buck was a firefighter or a paramedic or something along those lines. Even once I had that first script, in that pilot episode, he was certainly a different character from where he is now. But I always had faith and trust that these creators would take him on a journey and make him this three-dimensional character ... that they'd transform into a young man with a real heart."
And that's exactly what creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear have done for Buck. Over the past two seasons, we've seen him develop from being the new, seemingly arrogant rookie at LAFD Station 118, to this young man who's not afraid to shed a tear and show his vulnerable side. As one fan on Twitter so perfectly put it, 9-1-1 "depicts masculinity in such a refreshing way," something Stark couldn't be happier about.
"It is my favorite thing about playing Buck. That I get to be this guy who is in his mid-20s, who gets to have these moments where he is the swashbuckling hero with kind of this cockiness and swagger to him, and then in the next moment, he can be really vulnerable and sensitive," explains Stark, who reveals that before booking his role on 9-1-1, he was actually considering becoming a real-life firefighter with the LAFD. "Buck is not afraid to cry and I think it's so important to show that you can be all of those things at the same time."
"Growing up as a young man you're often told, 'You shouldn't cry,' and 'Emotions are weakness.' I think that's so damaging and I genuinely think that if we raised young boys better we wouldn't have such a need for feminism," he adds. "If you're told to 'Man up,' you're essentially being told that being feminine is lesser. I think if we took away that toxic masculinity then the world would be a much better place. So, to be a part of a TV show that lends itself towards that and supports those ideas, it has been a real honor for me. I'm very happy to be a part of that."
Stark tells ET he also loves that the show puts "a spotlight on positive male relationships that are meaningful." When Ryan Guzman joined the series for season two, fans became instantly obsessed with the bond his character, Eddie Diaz, shares with Buck. Viewers even came up with a special nickname for the two, shipping them as "Buddie."
"I think it's great," Starks says of all the love coming in for Buck and Eddie. "I'm really flattered by it and quite moved by it, actually. People can aspire onto it whatever they want and I'm very OK with that. It's very cool more than anything."
"We're showing a very positive male friendship and male relationship where there's no toxicity to it, there's no ego… it's just two guys that are really there and caring for each other and want to help each other," he continues. "I really love the way people have kind of latched onto it and I think it's a huge compliment for the show."
For those "Buddie" fans who are constantly sending them messages on social media, don't think your tweets or DMs go unnoticed. Stark says he and Guzman text each other about it "all the time!"
"There are some really genuinely talented people that make fan videos. They cut them really well, like, I'm amazed at the quality these editors have," he says. "So Ryan and I, we'll often send each other those and be like, 'Look at this one.' There was one particular one recently where somebody sent Ryan a picture of him and his fiancée, but they had scratched out her face and put me there instead. Yeah, we thought that one was quite funny! I take it as a complete compliment and am quite flattered by it."
Stark says that the reason the friendships between him and his co-stars probably translate so well onscreen is due to the fact that they are all so close in real life. "There are real friendships that were formed on this show," he explains. "Because we're playing firefighters, they are family to each other. They have to trust each other, literally, with their lives."
On the show, Stark plays the brother of a 9-1-1 operator named Maddie, portrayed by Jennifer Love Hewitt. The series also stars her real-life husband, Brian Hallisay, as Doug, an abusive ex-boyfriend who Maddie runs away from during the start of season two.
"We make lots of jokes about how it's basically therapy for them -- they get to work out some things and some kinks in a way that maybe most married couples would never," says Stark, adding that it's been "really lovely" having Love Hewitt on set. "I feel like she had some uncertainty coming in because she hadn't taken a job in a few years, but we kind of immediately felt like family. Within minutes of meeting her, she was already making fun of me, as an older sister would. She's brought real professionalism and talent, but also a sense of humor that's been a real pleasure to be around."
In an all-new episode that airs Monday on FOX, Stark teases a moment between Maddie and Doug that fans will not want to miss.
"This episode feels like a whole different show, but in a great way," he tells ET of the episode, which is also an important one for Buck. "It keeps the heart, it keeps obviously our characters that we've come to really care about, but it takes us into a whole new setting and whole new genre and really does justice to the story that has been set up. I really think fans and viewers are going to feel satisfied by the end of the episode."
"I'm really happy with it, which is quite rare for me [to say] when I watch my own work," he continues. "I'm to the point where I'm pretty OK watching myself, but to watch and be like, 'I'm really proud of what I did there,' is rare."
Stark reveals that next Monday's episode, airing April 8, will also be a big one. "We have this huge emergency that kind of [matches] the plane crash in season one, in scale," he teases. "A lot of work went into that and there's a lot of things blowing up, with huge set pieces."
"But then we also really delve into more character stuff," he continues, revealing that a flashback episode with Bobby Nash (Peter Krause) is coming soon. "The back eight episodes of season two kind of feel like a standalone movie. They're really individual episodes, they're really big, and a lot has gone into them. I'm excited for the audience to get to see what we've been working on because I feel very proud of it and I think that can be said across the board with the cast and the crew."
And with the show being renewed for a third season, Stark says there are plenty of "good, big things ahead" for fans to look forward to before season two comes to an end.
"There's a little bit of a cliffhanger at the end of the season," he teases. "I think one of the real things [the creators] try to do is remind everybody, sincerely, that there are these people out there that will run in the danger for you -- to run into the fires, to run into the danger that everybody else runs away from, that takes something really special. I have the utmost respect for first responders and I hope we do them justice, because we really are trying."
"I think the show always carries the message of hope," he continues. "But there's definitely some degree of darkness that creeps into the finale that sets up some possible stories for season three."
As for what he'd personally like to explore with Buck next season, Stark says, "I would quite like to find out some more information about Buck and Maddie's parents."
"What kind of people they are, and what kind of relationship they have with them," he adds. "There was once a little hint towards Buck's father, but it never made it into an episode. So, that story is completely open to doing whatever they want with it."
9-1-1 airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX. Get caught up on everything you need to know before next week's episode with Stark's official season two recap below: