“9-1-1”'s Oliver Stark breaks down that Buck kiss: It's a 'gift' to explore this new story

"This has been a long time coming," the actor tells EW of his character exploring his bisexuality on the first responder drama.

While the end of Thursday's 9-1-1 may have given some viewers heart palpitations, Oliver Stark says that surprise kiss was actually a long time in the making.

When the first responder drama debuted in 2018, Stark's character, Buck, was introduced as a womanizing sex addict. He first softened toward monogamy through his relationship with Abby (Connie Britton), and has dated a string of women off-and-on over the subsequent five seasons. Though Buck's main relationship on the show has actually been with his fellow 118 firefighter Eddie (Ryan Guzman). On Thursday's episode, Buck initially finds himself jealous of Eddie's budding relationship with former 118er Tommy (Lou Ferigno Jr.) — but in the final moments of the episode, he realizes it's not the possibility of losing Eddie that has him worked up, it's been about Tommy.

Tommy kisses Buck, who is momentarily left stunned. "I don't think he consciously wanted that. I don't think he knew what he was feeling throughout the whole episode," Stark tells Entertainment Weekly. But "I think the crumbs have been there. Maybe on one hand in quite obvious ways, but on the other hand, in less obvious ways."

So what are those ways? And when was Stark told this revelation was coming? Here the star answers all our burning questions.

<p>Disney/Chris Willard</p> Oliver Stark on '9-1-1.'

Disney/Chris Willard

Oliver Stark on '9-1-1.'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you known Tommy and Buck would kiss?

OLIVER STARK: Not very long. It kind of came together, I guess, while still shooting episodes 2 and 3. [9-1-1 co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear] called me and he said, "I want to pitch you something..." and laid it out to me. And I said, "Yes, I love that. I think that's fantastic." And we laughed about how, certainly from my point of view — and this is the big thing — I do think it's been a long time coming.

How so?

I do feel like there have been moments in the show that have led up to this for a long time. For a long, long time, in fact. I think it's been seasons and seasons in the making, so it's really nice to see it officially come to fruition. I think the crumbs have been there. Maybe on one hand in quite obvious ways, but on the other hand, in less obvious ways — of just searching, of trying to.... There was obviously something that wasn't clicking in Buck's personality and his openness with himself and his acceptance of himself. It felt to me like there was something beneath the surface, right? Because we've seen him latch onto these different personalities, or different relationships over the years, and that, to me, is a sign of not being quite okay with yourself. So I think that was a big driving force in it for me.

So had you been playing scenes in previous seasons with that in mind?

I don't think at the time, looking back, it was conscious, but there are certainly moments. The first one that sticks out to me.... If I go back to season 1, there's this scene: It's the tapeworm emergency, and the way Buck is kind of connecting with this guy.... I think there have been hints that weren't intentional, but I think do create pieces of this journey for me.

What's kind of crazy is that this season I did decide "If there's an opportunity, I think I want to start leaning more heavily into that." I hadn't had that conversation with Tim though, so when Tim then brought this storyline to me, I was like, "Well, guess what: I totally think that's the right direction and I'm all for it."

<p>ABC</p> Oliver Stark and Ryan Guzman on '9-1-1.'


Oliver Stark and Ryan Guzman on '9-1-1.'

When actually filming the kiss scene, how did you want to play it? Did Buck want Tommy to kiss him the whole time?

I don't think he consciously wanted that. I don't think he knew what he was feeling throughout the whole episode. In fact, I don't think he knows quite who is he jealous of, and what is he jealous of. I don't think any of the feelings that he has throughout the entire episode are consciously being processed in his head. He just knows he's feeling something, and it feels strong. So in that last scene, I don't think he's thinking, "Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me," or anything like that. And, honestly, I didn't quite know what the moment would feel like, from a character perspective, until we did it. It felt very emotional. And I feel very emotional when I watch it, because it feels like this release. The pressure valve has been lifted, and it's like, "This is something that I've been looking for." It was quite cathartic, and I think very liberating.

So where does Buck go from here?

I mean, we're only a couple of episodes ahead of this at the moment, so I don't know too much except that this next episode follows what I believe is quite a natural progression: Certainly for somebody finding this in their 30s, they'd be questioning, right? "What does this mean?" "Who am I?" "What about all these things that I thought to be true of myself?" And so there's some reckoning to deal with in the next episode, and then leaning on the people that are closest to him, and finding the right moments to open up and how much to share. And then in typical 9-1-1 fashion, having his family support him and make him feel the best version of himself.

<p>Disney/Chris Willard</p> Oliver Stark on '9-1-1.'

Disney/Chris Willard

Oliver Stark on '9-1-1.'

Do you feel any pressure taking on the task of telling a queer story on network TV in a time where the LGBTQ+ is still clamoring for increased representation on screen?

I think there's a responsibility to tell the story the right way. And for me, it's a balancing act between telling a queer love story but also just telling a love story, and not always needing to focus on the fact that it is a queer story. It's about finding that balance between wanting to highlight it but also not wanting to differentiate it from what media in the past may have seen as "normal," and just telling it as a story that is one of happiness and joy — and just focusing on the emotions and the human beings at the center of it. It's been a really nice gift: the opportunity to delve into this storyline, to be involved in telling it. I feel very proud of the work and just to be a part of it.

9-1-1 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.