Oliver Stark wants to keep exploring Buck's bisexuality on '9-1-1'

Oliver Stark
Oliver Stark
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The procedural drama series 9-1-1 reached 100 episodes following its move from Fox to ABC for season 7. That 100th episode, which aired on April 4, centers on Buck (Oliver Stark) dealing with complicated feelings toward Tommy (Lou Ferrigno Jr). The episode unfolds with Buck finally confessing his feelings, which results in a kiss between Tommy and Buck, and leads to the two of them agreeing to go on a date.

Dedicated 9-1-1 fans had long speculated about Buck's sexuality and eagerly anticipated his first kiss with another man on the show — and it finally happened in a way that was exciting, but also pointedly casual for the characters involved.

"Something that's always touched me emotionally, more than anything in my life, is when people are able to live as their authentic selves," actor Oliver Stark, who plays Buck on 9-1-1, tells Out. "It's something that has always, for whatever reason, brought a tear to my eye. When I see somebody living openly and proudly as who they are, it has always really affected me." I see him get a little emotional talking about it. "So, to get to now go through this storyline and hopefully help people feel more seen, that really means a lot to me."

It isn't until shooting episode 98 that Stark finds out about Buck's first kissing scene with a man in the 100th episode of the series. "Tim Minear, who writes the show, called me up and said, 'I want to pitch this Buck storyline to you,'" Stark recalls. "He proceeded to tell me about the character of Tommy and what that would lead to. He wanted to know how I felt about it and if I was on board with it. And obviously here we are, so of course I was. I was really excited for it, and I'm really happy with how it's played out."

Despite the undeniable progress of LGBTQ+ storytelling and inclusion in mainstream media, there are still people in our community who are glaringly underrepresented in film and television. Bisexual people, for instance, continue to be intensely misjudged, misunderstood, and misrepresented on and off the screen.

We see it on Insecure when Molly goes on a date with a guy who casually comes out as bi, and when Hannah Einbinder from Hacks denounces a "lack of grace" for bisexual women on television, and even hear it from Heartstopper star Kit Connor commenting on the "shockingly low" number of bi characters in movies and TV shows.

"A friend of mine — I actually met her through work; she was a guest actress many years ago — is bisexual and reached out to me. She waited to reach out because she had been reading stuff, and she just felt very emotional. She thought it was a really lovely story to be telling, and that it was done in the right way."

He adds, "Because that's the other thing: we want to tell it in an honest way where not everything is going to be easy and carefree. There are going to be issues, but we also don't want it to feel like it's down or too heavy. We want to tell this queer love story in a very honest way, but also in a very loving way."

Buck's attraction to women was on full display for six seasons of 9-1-1. Now, he's also getting to express his feelings for another man, share a kiss, and make plans for a future date, which doesn't negate any relationship that's come before.

"Even the fact that Buck is learning more about his sexuality in his thirties is a really great story to tell," Stark says. "People comment things on my Instagram like, 'Well, there would've been signs. How come it's taken him so long?' I think it's important to show that we're always learning more about ourselves. It's never too late to uncover a new side of yourself. In fact, if you go back to season 1 of the show, Athena's husband comes to terms with his sexuality as a man in his forties or fifties. There's no formula for how you find things out about yourself or learn to love things about yourself. This is just Buck's journey."

Fox's 9-1-1: Lone Star, a spinoff series from 9-1-1 that is soon returning for a fifth season, has long featured LGBTQ+ actors Brian Michael Smith, who is trans; Rafael L. Silva, who is gay; and Ronen Rubinstein, who is bisexual. Rubinstein and Silva play T.K. Strand and Carlos Reyes, respectively, and make up the fan-favorite couple referred to as Tarlos among fans.

Stark highlights that Rubinstein and Silva have always been supportive of him, his character, and the show overall. "Tarlos is a beautiful relationship," Stark says. "I'm just honored to get to tell a story that can kind of partner up with that and maybe continue with a similar thread."

Stark adds, "Rafael and I used to bump into each other a lot. I mean, we went to the same gym, so I used to see him at the gym a lot. But I recently stopped going to that gym." And when Stark had to defend Buck's bisexuality on social media, he recalls that Rubinstein re-shared his social media post in a gesture of support.

"I was so excited to see Buck's evolution as a character hit this beautiful point," Rubinstein tells Out when reached out for comment. "As an out bi actor, I'm beyond happy such a fan-favorite gets to explore this journey on such a massive show. I know Oliver will handle it with the ultimate care and respect, and you can always trust in Tim Minear. I guess he knew exactly what he was doing when T.K. told Buck he already had a boyfriend in the crossover episode."

The scene referenced by Rubinstein, in which T.K. and Buck interact with each other, can be seen below.

While there was some conservative backlash to the scene of Buck and Tommy kissing on 9-1-1, Stark reveals that the feedback was much more overwhelmingly positive than negative. "It was the minority, which I was surprised about, but thought was an amazing thing," he says. "I think more than anything, it's ignorance. It's people who don't understand the story."

Stark continues, "One of the things that makes me laugh is… women will be like, 'Oh, but I was attracted to Buck, and now I'm not.' And it's like, 'Well, these are fictional characters, so you didn't have a chance with him anyway, because he's not real.' [laughs] This is a show that has always contained queer storylines and queer characters. If [adding] one more is the tipping point or a deal breaker, then what were you watching to begin with?"

Looking ahead into the future of 9-1-1, Stark wants Buck to continue on this path of self-discovery and love.

"I really want to see Buck continue to explore what it is that really speaks to him, and what he's into," Stark says. "He's obviously going to continue down this path with Tommy for now. I don't know what that story is going to end up being, but I would really like for Tommy to stay a part of Buck's life, regardless. He's obviously opened this door for him, and I think it would be really nice if [Tommy] was able to continue to hold [Buck's] hand and could help guide him through this process. As somebody who's a little older and more experienced, to kind of help shepherd Buck into this new phase of understanding who he is."

New episodes of 9-1-1 season 7 air Thursday on ABC. The entire series is also available for streaming on Hulu.