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9-1-1's Ryan Guzman Previews Season 7, Buck and Eddie's Relationship, and More

The actor addresses fan's backlash over comments he made for the first time

Max Gao
Ryan Guzman and Rusty Schwimmer, 9-1-1

Ryan Guzman and Rusty Schwimmer, 9-1-1

Disney/Chris Willard

Ryan Guzman will be the first to tell you that he has noticed some parallels between himself and Eddie Diaz, the Army-medic-turned-firefighter he has played for six seasons on 9-1-1. Like his character on the beloved procedural drama, which premieres March 14 on ABC, Guzman is now a single father striving to find the right work-life balance and learning to lean on his tight-knit support network to help raise his young children.

"As we're going into the seventh season, I'm actually really enjoying the fact that Eddie's bending the corner of figuring out who he really is. He doesn't have to be perfect. He can really lean on his community and his team," Guzman told TV Guide on a recent Zoom call. "It's happening to be at a perfect time in my life, because it kind of parallels [myself]."

Serendipity seems to be a common theme in Guzman's story. In 2018, after testing for another Fox show, he agreed to take a meeting with 9-1-1 co-creator Tim Minear, who was looking to bring another firefighter into the fold at Station 118. Although he was already an established actor in TV (Notorious, Heroes Reborn, Pretty Little Liars) and film (Step Up Revolution, Everybody Wants Some!!), Guzman admitted that his life and career truly changed once he booked the first-responder drama.

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A war veteran with a disabled child, Eddie was originally supposed to be a love interest for Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who was also joining the show that season as Buck's (Oliver Stark) sister. But Hewitt lobbied for Maddie to fall in love with Chimney (Kenneth Choi) instead, believing that it would be the more interesting choice for Maddie. "I'm so happy that Maddie and Chimney became a thing," Guzman concurred, "and Eddie is kind of this variant that goes around and does all these crazy antics."

During his initial meeting with Minear, Eddie was described as "a very militant, by-the-book guy," a goody two-shoes. "As soon as I heard that, I shied away a little bit, to be honest. I was like, 'Wow, I want to see what's wrong with him. What's going on with him? No one's that good,'" Guzman recalled with a laugh. As Minear began to write more episodes, he and Guzman were able to "break down the character" and find his biggest flaw. "As much as he's keeping it calm on the surface, there's so much going on underneath that he's hiding from even his team. He's trying to do it all by himself, which I can relate to. I love the path that [Minear] has chosen for this character."

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So much of the animating force of Eddie's life comes from his relationship with his son, Christopher (Gavin McHugh), who has cerebral palsy. "Eddie lost his ex-wife [Shannon, played by Devin Kelley]. He doesn't know where he stands with his family. He doesn't know if he can open up to his team yet. So the only thing really holding him up [in earlier seasons] was Christopher," Guzman said. "I can honestly say I've had moments like that with my own children, where I'm like, 'Oh, man, I am overwhelmed. I don't know where I'm going. Am I making the right decisions? Am I doing the right things? Am I the man who I say I am?' It's a very honest moment that Eddie and myself have had in our lives, and that comes through our children."

Guzman, who has two children under the age of 5, credits playing McHugh's onscreen father for making him a better parent in real life. "I just instantly fell in love with Gavin. He's such an incredible individual that I only wanted to see him do great things in this world and have a great time. I don't want anybody to hurt him. I don't want anybody to say anything wrong around him."

Despite being honorably discharged and awarded a Silver Star for serving in Afghanistan, Eddie struggled with the guilt of being unable to save more people on the battlefield — which explains, in part, why he decided to become a firefighter. "Everybody's celebrating him for this award that he feels he doesn't deserve, [so] he puts this in the back of his head and represses his emotions," Guzman said. It's only been in recent years, with the support of Bobby (Peter Krause) and the 118, that Eddie has been forced to confront those difficult emotions.

In Season 5B, after Christopher expresses concerns about the safety of his line of work, Eddie decides to take a desk job and eventually reaches his breaking point. Upon discovering that everyone he tried to save during the war has died, Eddie takes a baseball bat to his room. A terrified Christopher immediately calls Buck, who races over to talk Eddie down.

"Buck has to come in and see this mess of a man that Eddie is. There is no more hiding. That's the point. He can't hide anymore," explained Guzman, who considers that scene a "very pivotal" moment in his character's evolution. "Eddie has to go forward with who he is seeing in the mirror, and he doesn't like what he sees in the mirror. And from Season 5 into Season 6, it was all about him being OK each time with his reflection."

Eddie has now put in the work and seems to be in a different place at the start of Season 7, Guzman previewed. "He is actually starting to figure out who he is outside of 'I am an Army man who has a silver badge.' … He's way more than that. He's starting to live in that [feeling] a little bit more, and I think that's freeing to him. So we're gonna see a lot more from Eddie this year. We're gonna see a lot more humor. We're gonna see more emotion from Eddie — not just the crying and the trauma, but a wide variety."

Guzman thinks Eddie's breakdown in Season 5 is what has opened himself up to the possibility of a relationship with Marisol (Edy Ganem), whom he met on a call last season. But considering that this is only the second serious relationship that he has had since his wife died, does Eddie have a long-term plan with Marisol? Guzman isn't so sure, but he's cautiously optimistic for Eddie's love life.

"I don't necessarily think that he's thinking anything long-term or short-term; I think he's thinking moment-by-moment and just trying to be a better individual than he was the day before," Guzman said. "Is he being humble enough to actually make a change in his life? From what I've seen thus far in the season, from what I have acted out, I'm very hopeful for him. … But, like Tim would say, it can't be all good, or it'd be dull and you wouldn't watch anymore. So I'm sure there's gonna be plenty of obstacles and issues there."

Eddie is going to be dealing with a different kind of obstacle as a parent this season. In the premiere, Eddie will ask Buck to help him deal with Christopher's dating woes, which will inevitably bring up conversations about Shannon.

Oliver Stark and Gavin McHugh, 9-1-1

Oliver Stark and Gavin McHugh, 9-1-1

Disney/Chris Willard

"He's enlisting the worst person," Guzman said, laughing. Buck and Eddie, after all, don't exactly have the best track record with romantic relationships on 9-1-1. "It's the blind leading the blind. In a moment of chaos, Eddie doesn't really have a sense of direction, so he reaches out for the closest person, and that closest person is Buck. Within that episode, we'll see how vast this whole thing is with Christopher and the girl — or girls — that he's talking to. I think it's a moment of desperation, to be honest, and both of them are trying to figure out, 'How do we even make this work? What do we even say? Are we the people to be even saying this?'"

If you think this sounds like a co-parenting relationship, you wouldn't be the first one to think that way. Since they were introduced in the second season, the Diaz boys have become inextricably linked with Buck, who has become like a second father to Christopher. Over the years, there have been numerous nods to their dynamic — an elf mistaking Buck as one of Christopher's fathers, Maddie teasing Buck about having a "boy crush on Eddie," Buck and Eddie rushing to save each other in life-threatening situations. Much like the fans, the writers have remained divided over how to define this familial dynamic; while some believe Buck and Eddie are just friends, others still believe there is romantic potential.

For their part, Guzman said he and Stark "have a great time playing the truth" of their one-on-one scenes and "have a lot of fun" with the fervent reactions to their onscreen dynamic. "Whatever anybody attaches themselves to is kind of at their own volition," said Guzman, who, for the record, is willing to go wherever the writing takes him. "But I think the truth of it — and what I would like to see more in the world — is that men lean on each other in their vulnerable moments, and it's not considered anything other than just sharing some vulnerability and needing some companionship and help. With the state of men's mental health nowadays, we need more of that. So I really love the fact that Buck is there for Eddie at the drop of a dime and vice versa."

The writers chose to strengthen that fan-favorite bond in the Season 4 finale: After surviving being shot on the job, Eddie tells Buck that, if he were to die, Buck would become Christopher's legal guardian. Although he admitted that he didn't completely understand his character's decision at first, Guzman has come to realize that "there would be no other person" in Eddie's life — including his own biological family — who could take on that caretaking role for Christopher like Buck could.

"I think it just makes sense to be the best friend and know that there's going to be a strong male figure in Christopher's life," Guzman admitted of the famous will scene. "I think about my own children, and I go, 'Well, if I pass away, and their mother were to pass away, who would I want?' Honestly, I would want one of my male friends to step in that role and take over. It would be someone that I obviously trust and [who] would do anything and absolutely everything for my child, and we saw that in Season 3 with the tsunami. Buck would do anything [for Chris], so it was a great call."

Ryan Guzman, 9-1-1

Ryan Guzman, 9-1-1

Disney/Chris Willard

Having played Eddie for six seasons (and counting), Guzman has a solid understanding of how Eddie's past informs his present. But after digging into Eddie's relationship with his "hard-headed" father, the actor would be particularly interested in exploring how Eddie feels about his mother. "I think there's a reflection somewhere in the way he chooses love for himself and his relationships in what he saw with his own mother and father, and I'm sure there's something to dive in there," he said. Eddie also has two sisters who haven't been seen since the Season 2 finale. "Having the sisters come out and approve this next girl would be fun," he added.

Since joining 9-1-1, Guzman's profile has risen considerably — and that new level of visibility has come with increased scrutiny. In 2020, during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Guzman defended his then-partner Chrysti Ane's use of the N-word in resurfaced tweets from 2011. His comments were met with swift backlash from fans and castmates alike. The following morning, Guzman issued a video apology, clarifying that he "misspoke" in the heat of the moment and did not condone the use of racial slurs. A couple days later, he published a second written apology, saying that he wholeheartedly supports the Black community and will "hold myself accountable and take full responsibility for my defensiveness and ignorance."

Now a few years removed from those comments, Guzman — who has not done press for 9-1-1 or publicly addressed the controversy since posting his now-deleted apologies on social media — said he has come to understand "that there's a difference between intent and action."

"I am so grateful for the obstacles and the hardships that I've gone through because they've been very reflective, and I have had to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'Well, am I convincing myself that I'm somebody that I'm not, or am I really this person?'" Guzman said. "At the end of the day, I found out over the past decade or so — because there's been an identity crisis for the longest time, but luckily we rounded that corner — I found out who I really am."

Guzman's tone is careful and considered, having realized that his actions have consequences. While he is the only one who truly knows what he has learned from this experience (if anything at all), he appears to have a greater awareness of how his words can be construed by others. So, what has he learned about the responsibility that comes with using the platform that he has created for himself?

"How I can help and what I can do to help [others] is honestly just trying to absolutely step towards the man I would love to be each day. And in that process, [I want to] invite people to do the exact same thing through a sense of honesty," he responds. (People who follow him on social media will not be surprised in the least by this characteristically philosophical response.) "I just wish that the world would get along a little bit better and stop finding reasons to have so much conflict with each other, because at the end of the day, it's one human race. … I only want to spread love, and I thank everybody that has had their own opinion about me and made me reflect on the things that I need to reflect on."

9-1-1 premieres March 14 at 8/7c on ABC. All episodes can be streamed on Hulu.