INTO THE FIRE – British actor and Hollywood rising star Oliver Stark chats with DAMAN about his appearance in “9-1-1,” his journey into acting and love
Born in London and now making a name for himself in Hollywood, Oliver Stark started appearing in movies and TV shows in the early 2010s. Then in 2015, his popularity gained a significant boost when he became a regular in “Into the Badlands,” an action/adventure series set in a post-apocalyptic feature where martial arts reign supreme. This year, Stark once again came under the spotlight for his appearance as firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley in “9-1-1.” And this August, the second season of this popular procedural drama will start airing all over the globe.
DAMAN: Hi, Oliver; thank you for having us. Now, this August, the second season of your show “9-1-1” will start airing. How, in your opinion, will it top the first season’s success?
Oliver Stark: The first season was received so well we’ve certainly set ourselves a high bar to compete with! But it’s a challenge everyone has embraced and feels confident about. The second season is bigger and crazier than ever before, but retains the same heart and personality of the first season. The cast is bigger, there are more episodes, and a whole lot more emergencies to get called out on.
DA: How about your character, Evan “Buck” Buckley? What’s new in terms of development and challenges that audiences will see in season two?
OS: The second season for Buck is a lot about maintaining and continuing to progress on the path of maturity he set out on during the first season. He really started to grow into a noble character, much because of the influence of Abby [Connie Britton’s character who left at the end of the first season], so it will be interesting to see if he can continue that growth without her around.
DA: Are there are any particularly memorable moments or scenes om the new season that you can share with us?
OS: One of my favorite parts to shoot was the first few interactions between Buck and his sister Maddie. I was very excited to get the chance to work with Jennifer Love Hewitt and start to form that brotherly/sisterly bond. She’s a great acting partner and we had a lot of fun.
DA: Looking back a bit, what was it that first sparked your interest in “9-1-1”?
OS: My original interest in the project came about from seeing who was involved. It’s a Ryan Murphy show, so you know the creatives are the best of the best. I also knew I wanted to be a part of a project that I considered socially conscious and this really fit the bill. It’s diverse with positive representation and really tries to shine a light on the life of first responders.
DA: What kind of training did you have to through to play as a firefighter in “9-1-1”?
OS: I went on some ride-alongs with firefighters and got to go on a wide variety of real life emergencies with them. That was really interesting, but I think the biggest education came from just spending time around the firefighters and seeing how they interact with one another.
DA: On that note, what are some of the biggest surprises about first responders and their work that you discovered while working on the show?
OS: I think the biggest surprise for me was how varied the emergency calls can be. I, quite ignorantly, thought firefighters just dealt with fires. But, here in Los Angeles, 80-percent of their calls are medical related.
DA: By the way, TV shows about first responders have become increasingly popular lately. What do you think drives this trend?
OS: Shows about first responders can’t help but be hopeful and I feel like that’s something the world needs right now. It’s also reassuring to know that these people are out there willing to risk their lives to save you if ever it comes to that!
DA: And how does “9-1-1” stand out from similar shows?
OS: I think “9-1-“1 stands out because it delves into the personal lives of our protagonists more than any other procedural. Also I think the calls are wackier, so there’s that! It’s shot beautifully as well which counts for a lot.
DA: You’re known to have held a wide variety of jobs before going into acting full time. Can you tell us a bit about the journey and how you eventually got your start as an actor?
OS: I have held many different jobs. This is definitely my favorite, though. I think the majority of actors go through a long period of having to work other jobs before they are able to support themselves solely from acting. I started by making a lot of short films; appearing in film students’ little movies and creating a reel from them. I sent that reel out and got my first agent and slowly began to get work.
DA: Now that you have quite a few titles under your belt, what, would you say, are the best parts of your chosen profession?
OS: I love that I get to explore all different walks of life. Right now, I’m getting to learn about and embody a firefighter. But my next job might be something completely different and I’ll get a whole new education on that.
DA: And on the flip side, what are some of the most challenging parts of being an actor? Especially those that most people might be unaware of…
OS: I guess the rejection. That’s definitely challenging. You can go a long time between jobs. I went a year between my previous job and “9-1-1.” For me, the hardest part is the lack of job security even when you have the job. You never know what could happen to the character. It’s something I used to be very insecure about, but I’m a lot better and calmer about that part of the job now.
DA: To date, what is the best, most exciting or otherwise memorable role you’ve ever played?
OS: It’s the easy answer but it’s this one, on “9-1-1.” Everything about it from the cast and crew to the subject material. I’m living my dream.
DA: What kind of roles would you like to try out in the future? Your dream project, if you will…
OS: I’ve always said I want to be a part of work that reflects the world we live in. That continues to be my desire and I consider that the most important work there is. Work that asks questions of society. Also, secretly, I’ve always wanted to be in a football (soccer) movie.
DA: You’re also quite active on social media, not only promoting your shows but also voicing your opinions on current events. What is the main driving force behind your decision to speak out?
OS: I don’t really have a driving force behind that. It’s not a conscious decision. I just speak out when I feel I have something valid to say on a matter. Often, I’m probably wrong and my opinion isn’t valid but I’m trying my best to learn when it’s my place to speak out and when it’s better to listen.
DA: Representation of minority or marginalized groups in media and entertainment has become a major talking point all across the globe. What is your main take on the issue?
OS: I’m all for diversity and, almost more importantly, positive representation. Every child and young adult deserves to see movies and television where they can see a hero that looks like them.
DA: All in all, though, do you think that things are—or perhaps “can”—get better? Or in other words: Do you think we can be hopeful that things will get better with time?
OS: I think so. I hope so. The #MeToo movement has been huge. The #OscarsSoWhite movement a few years ago seems to have had some impact. We have shows like “Pose” being broadcast now, giving a voice to incredibly talented transgender actors. Things seem to be moving in the right direction and I hope it continues … and speeds up.
DA: On to the lighter side of life: Besides acting, what else are you most passionate about?
OS: I love soccer. That’s a big source of joy (and pain) in my life. But, I’m a simple individual who just likes quiet family time more than anything.
DA: We know it’s an old story by now, but you famously moved from the U.K. to L.A. “for love.” Can you tell us a bit about this part of your life’s story?
OS: I did, indeed. I moved for love and thankfully it’s worked out! I met my partner on Instagram when I was in Europe. I flew here, we met at the airport and moved in together! That was almost three years ago now.
DA: One final, and perhaps clichéd, question, but where do you see yourself in 10 years or so from now?
OS: A clichéd question, maybe, but still a hard one to answer. Ideally, I want to be in a position where I’m working and feeling comfortable enough to be very selective about the work that comes my way. I’d like to be married … and I’d like a couple of kids by then too. We shall see what happens!
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Courtney Leday
Grooming Melissa Walsh
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