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“I do believe, or at least hope, they seem to be dying out,” laughs Oliver Stark. The British actor is manifesting the much-needed and deserved extinction of 9-1-1’s anti-LGBTQIA+ mob, who were – sadly, but predictably – out in full force after his mainstay character Evan “Buck” Buckley embraced his status as a bi-con in the procedural drama’s seventh season. Stark proceeded to showcase his LGBTQIA+ allyship by issuing a statement in which he condemned the biphobes and told them to, basically, piss off.

“I wondered if I should bother even saying something to them because, do I even wanna give them the time of day?” Stark tells GAY TIMES over Zoom. “I think the most important aspect was to put a message out for the other people, for the people who were supportive of the storyline and to make sure they knew I wasn’t at all swayed away from it and I’m proud to be telling this story.”

‘Refreshing’ is how fans – and Stark – describe the handling of Buck’s sexuality. Rather than question his masculinity or reject his identity – which has, sigh, traditionally been the case in television and film – Stark’s beloved first responder has embraced all facets of his queerness. From the start, it was important that ‘trauma’ didn’t have a place in his journey, Stark explains.

Read ahead for our full interview with Oliver Stark, where he celebrates 9-1-1’s progressive depiction of Buck’s sexuality and discusses his chemistry with co-stars Ryan Guzman and Lou Ferrigno Jr. Obviously, we had to chat with Stark about ‘Buddie’ – the much-championed ship between his and Guzman’s characters – and whether Buck is a fan of Atomic Kitten. That last part: very important and relevant.

This storyline, Buck’s sexuality journey, has been popping off online. How have these past few weeks been for you?

There have been different emotions. At first, it was really lovely and then it got a bit overwhelming, almost. I felt a lot of… It’s just a lot of emotions that have come with it, right? I’m so happy that the response has been as positive as it has and obviously there are a few people who want to speak against it, as you get with any storyline anyway, but it’s almost been overwhelming. It’s been a lot to take in, but for the majority, it’s been really lovely and positive and I’ve been really proud of it.

I saw that you had to put out a statement, shutting down the anti-LGBTQ+ crowd. It’s baffling, isn’t it? The show has had queer storylines throughout the series, and it comes from queer mastermind Ryan Murphy, of all people?

It’s a very strange one, and I wondered if I should bother even saying something to them because, do I even wanna give them the time of day? I think the most important aspect was to put a message out for the other people, for the people who were supportive of the storyline and to make sure they knew I wasn’t at all swayed away from it and I’m proud to be telling this story. The people that aren’t on board with it – as I said in the post – they can go and watch something else.

You just gotta focus on the people who actually appreciate the show, right?

Yeah, and as you say, those storylines have always been present in the show, so it doesn’t make sense to now, suddenly, be so anti it. Also, the things that they come up with, ‘He was always such a womaniser!’ Being a womaniser, or a young man struggling to understand your feelings of attraction to the same sex, I’m sure quite a common cover-up to that is probably spending some years as a womaniser and a bit of a player, running away from those feelings. The other thing is, we’re telling the story here of a bisexual man, so yeah, he was attracted to women and he will continue to be attracted to women. That’s an integral part to his bisexuality.

@gaytimes Star of 9-1-1 #OliverStark shares his thoughts on #Buck's bisexual journey and fan reactions to #Buddie 🚨 #911 #buckandeddie #911lonestar #oliverstarkedit #buddie911 #911buck #911buddie #911onfox #911edit ♬ original sound – GAY TIMES

Yeah, you can be a womaniser and like men, too…

Yeah, exactly. Now that he likes men, it doesn’t mean he isn’t gonna have any attraction to women, right? He’s attracted to more than one gender.

These trolls are wild, Oliver…

I do believe, or at least hope, they seem to be dying out. [There’s] less and less [biphobes]. I think we’re becoming more and more open and, hopefully, through representation in entertainment and media, it’s part of what is hopefully moving that needle.

The Buddie stans, and I will admit Oliver, that includes me…

You can admit that!

We’ve been out in full force for years now, so did you ever anticipate, even before this season aired, that a queer storyline could happen for Buck? For our bisexual bi-con Buck?

“Bisexual bi-con”, I like that. Yeah. It was brought to me a couple years ago as a possibility and I had said yes, and then it was shut down from somewhere else above. So, I had known that this was a possible storyline that we might, one day, be able to lean back into. Honestly, at the beginning of this season… I see what everybody else sees. Like, I watch the same show. I don’t think that the Buddie fans are wrong. So, I decided this year that I wanted to possibly lean into some kind of sexual awakening for Buck, anyway. When the storyline was brought to me by Tim Minear, who writes the show, it was like, ‘Great! I was gonna do that anyway. Good to know we’re all on the same page.’

And it’s been handled so well. It hasn’t conformed to any tired queer tropes such as Buck rejecting who he is or questioning his masculinity. Was that important to do from the start, to be progressive?

Absolutely. One of the first things that Tim said to me when he pitched me the story was, ‘I don’t want this to feel like the bravest episode of television. I want it to feel like a rom-com.’ The struggles that Buck did end up having in the following episode was less about, ‘Ooh, what does this mean for myself?’ and more like, ‘I’ve always said that I was such an ally!’ and I think that’s quite an honest way to tell that story. But, it’s always done light-hearted. He never was hard on himself [about his sexuality]. His biggest internal conflict that he went through was the fact that he lied to Eddie about being on a date, but it wasn’t about the fact that he was on a date. He was absolutely okay with that, and I think that’s a really refreshing way to tell the story because we want to tell a queer love story here, but we don’t want to do it in this traumatic, heavy way where the fact that it’s a queer love story is the issue. It’s gonna have issues, but hopefully not surrounding the queerness.

That date… My reaction was a mixture of smiling and, ‘Oh no! Don’t do that!’ You could tell he was coming from a good place, though.

That’s the thing with Buck that has been there for all seven seasons. He’s always well-intentioned. He often says the wrong thing, but his heart is in the right place. Yeah, that was no different on his first date with Tommy.

Later on in the episode, Buck confided in Eddie about his romance with Tommy, which was a really heartfelt scene and rightfully praised by viewers. What was it like to film that with Ryan?

We always have a really lovely and open time in our scenes, and I do know that he’s spoken about this publicly, so I’m okay to share it. He’s had that conversation with a friend coming out to him before. There was a moment where he was maybe taken aback, just because it’s new, and then it’s, ‘But you’re my friend. I love you, and I’ll support you through anything.’ I know it’s something that he had a very personal connection to. We just wanted to dive into the openness and supportiveness and vulnerability of the whole thing. At the beginning of the scene, Eddie is talking about his own relationship drama and it’s kind of in the air for Buck, and it’s about finding the right moment to open up and drop what he thinks is going to be this bombshell. But in actual fact, it doesn’t have as much of an impact as he thinks it might cause.

What’s it like to share this big storyline with Lou Ferrigno Jr.?

It’s really fun to see. He’s newer to the show. He’s done a few episodes in the past seasons but he’s never been involved to this capacity. So, it’s fun to see his excitement to how many eyes end up on it, and how widespread the reach of the show is. It’s fun to… This is going to sound so mean, but it’s almost like watching a baby discover the world for the first time, right? It’s like, ‘Wow, this is a big show and people really care about these characters!’ It’s nice to see that with his fresh eyes. We’re learning more about each other. We only met during episode three, and in episode four we were kissing, so it was pretty immediate and there’s still a lot of things that Buck and Tommy have to learn about each other, but also Oliver and Lou. So, we’re building those relationships.

How has he found the online response? Because there’s a lot of people who are very happy about this romance, but some stans still want Buddie to happen…

I think you have to learn to filter out the stuff you don’t want to read and lean into the stuff you do. Whether that means you’re reading things everyday or set yourself a day to read stuff and put it aside, I think he’s doing well. The Buddie fans… It’s been difficult for some actresses on the show before. I know that they’ve felt, sometimes, unfairly treated. Whether or not it was unfair, I don’t speak to that, but I do know it was something they had difficulty with. I think Lou’s doing really well with it. He’s a really fun and goofy person, so I think he’s just going with the flow and reading the good stuff. I’ve seen he’s been having some fun with fans on X.

I know you probably can’t say much about Buddie and what your hopes are for that pairing, but has the fandom’s passionate response to Buck and Eddie ever impacted the way you’ve portrayed Buck?

I’ve tried not to let it. I think that’s a dangerous road to go down, because then you start making choices in scenes for the wrong reasons, because you’re trying to please social media or whatever. I don’t think that’s the right way to go about your work as an actor. But, it’s impossible to not let it influence your work in some way, especially when you’re reading all these things and if you agree with some of them, then how do you end up not taking that on board? I’ll watch these fan edits of moments between us that we get tagged in on Instagram and there’s a beautiful song playing in the background, and it’s hard not to be taken in by that. I do think it’s important that, once we get to work, to push that aside and play out the moments as authentically as we can, and there is a chemistry there that exists just naturally, so we don’t have to try and lean into that or lean away from that. We just let it flow.

Time will tell…

Yeah, and that’s the thing. If it does end up going there, it will be because the story naturally progresses in that way. It shouldn’t be done just to please a specific sub-set of fans. It should be done because that’s the right story to tell, and that’s in fact the much more progressive and positive way to tell the story anyway.

And what can you tease about Buck’s storyline and how it continues with the next batch of episodes? We’re on a bit of a break now, and the last episode teased a bit of chaos…

A little bit!

What can you tease without spoiling it and, erm, ruining your contract with the show?

The next episode is the Maddie-Chimney wedding, and it was one of the most fun episodes I’ve ever been able to shoot on the show. I feel like I got to relive a side of myself I haven’t since I was about 21 in London, drinking too much and waking up having forgotten the night before. It was really fun to dive back into that side. So, plenty of chaos and some more quote-unquote “coming out” for Buck to other people in his life. Not in an obvious way, a much more subtle way.

I’m aware this is a stereotype, but every queer man has his pop diva. Who would Buck’s be? Madonna? Beyoncé? Have you thought about it?

No, I haven’t thought about it! When Tim said to me, ‘So listen, we think that Buck’s gonna kiss a man’ I didn’t say, ‘Alright, let me go work out who his pop diva is.’ But maybe I should have, maybe that’s where I went wrong? I don’t know. Who do you think it would be? Could you tell me?

Atomic Kitten? Sugababes?

He’s not gonna know Atomic Kitten. I don’t think they ever found much success in America, so he wouldn’t know Atomic Kitten or Sugababes.

Girls Aloud? I just thought I’d give you a quintessentially British answer…

I appreciate it, but Buck would have no idea what you’re talking about, but I liked it.

Alright, well next time we talk I want a list: his favourite pop diva, favourite queer film, favourite queer anthem. I want it all.

I’ll have every answer and reasons why and timestamps for the scenes that won him over.

The seventh season of 9-1-1 returns on 2 May in the US on ABC. 

You can watch our full interview with Oliver Stark here or below.