As Fire Chief Lucas Ripley on Station 19, Brett Tucker has wrapped us around his finger as the steely, long-closed off, newly open-hearted, wholly un-ugly man we’ve loved to love and, now, hate to see leave.
In Friendly Fire, we saw Ripley running into a fire to save a life and then getting an almost impromptu proposal from Vic, only to be told not to answer. He was also coughing a lot. Like, a disconcerting lot. And our concern was indeed warranted: in Always Ready — a crossover episode with this week’s Grey’s Anatomy — we sadly lose Ripley after he’s exposed to hydrofluoric acid, which enters his lungs and compromises his already weakened heart. His death ends not only Tucker’s run on the show, but also the Vicley romance fans have been wild over. It was the heartbreak of a Station 19 fan’s lifetime.
Luckily for Tucker, however, he knew long before getting this script that his time as a Seattle fire chief would be ending soon. We spoke with the actor a few days before his final episode aired, and our favorite Aussie revealed how he found out about the pending demise of Ripley and the love story no one saw coming. Below, we also find out how he spent the moments after leaving set for the last time (he may have even gotten choked up discussing it) and the big life event he’s decided to take on the day after Ripley’s final episode aired.
JARRET HILL: So, first things first: How long ago was this episode filmed?
BRETT TUCKER: It was about four weeks now.
JH: How did you find out that this was going to be the end for Lucas Ripley?
BT: I kind of knew early on, at the start of the season, actually. I think it was the first or second episode that they had the arc planned for the season. So it was always on the cards. I’m not sure that the Vic and Ripley thing was always on the cards. That kind of came out of the scenes that we had on-screen and the chemistry between us as actors. But they knew [he was going to die] early on. They did pretty well to keep it under wraps, but Barrett [Doss, who plays Victoria) and I knew.
JH: There are going to be a lot of broken-hearted Vicley fans out there. Did you think people would take to that pairing so passionately and be so into it?
BT: I’m not on social media, but I have become aware of the response and it’s really heartwarming, I’ve got to say, because I really enjoyed that relationship and the characters. And Barrett as an actor is so great, so it’s really nice that people were into it. To answer your question simply, no. I didn’t expect it to be that, as strong as it appears to be, but I’m glad people were on board like we were.
JH: Did you guys know immediately that something special was happening, or was it something that came in feedback?
BT: I think we as actors knew that we worked well together straight away. You just click with certain actors. Barrett’s one of those actors, when you see her on screen and when you work with her, you can see her heart just by looking at her. She’s really accessible. She’s from a theater background, so she’s in a place of working with another person and being in the moment, connecting with each other, which is exactly how I like to work as well. So we knew that we clicked as actors. But you never know how they’re going to edit it. It’s an ensemble cast. You don’t know how much is actually going in. So we certainly weren’t thinking, “People are going to latch onto this,” we were just doing our thing, investing in a relationship with the characters.
JH: What was your favorite Vicley moment over the course of this season?
BT: Whoa, that’s a really difficult one to answer. I loved the first moment, the first few scenes even, where she attacks Ripley. When they meet at that self-help group as well. But the thing I love about her character, and her as an actor, she’s really [foreign to him]. She comes at him from a different place and that cracks him open.
I loved the moment where he recommits to her after they have their first fight, and he says, I’m not going anywhere. He says, “I don’t want my shirt back. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here.”
JH: It was a big jump in the relationship. He teases it at the beginning of the previous episode, sort of saying, “there’s this thing we could do…” Talk to me about reading that and seeing how that was going to make him dying even more difficult.
BT: The nature of television is exactly what you just said, it’s going to make it more difficult. So there’s that. You instantly go, “Oh god, they’re going for the jugular here.” They’re really going to break some hearts.
But approaching it from where the character’s at, he’s crazy about her. For me, the way to approach it is, “It’s probably too soon to be doing this, but I don’t know where she exactly is on this journey at the moment, but he knows he’s completely into her. And so I’m just going to put it out there and see what she says.”
He’s into it, for real. Even when he says he’ll step down, he doesn’t want to step down, but he’s putting it out there to see what she says because he’s on board. So he goes about it in a half-assed, testing-the-water kind of way.
JH: When he runs into the coffee bean plant, it’s a really big scene, obviously. What was it like filming that with everything that you knew going into it? Talk about that day, filming that scene.
BT: First of all, when I read it, I was really excited. I love doing physical work and this job has been great.
To be honest, I suppose, I thought as an actor, this is my one shot to have a crack at getting in there and getting dirty. So I was excited about that. And I thought they wrote it really well. I didn’t have to indulge in myself too much. It was just a matter of doing what’s in front of you, the action that’s in front of you. Get your gear on, get in there, get the guy, get out. That kind of deal.
I love that. It’s just really straightforward.
JH: What was the last scene you filmed?
BT: Actually, the last scene on Station 19 was the scene with Vic, [with Ripley] dying in the bed. It was intense actually. It was really beautiful and (Tucker’s voice cracks) I’m getting emotional thinking about it. It was really sad. Everyone was amazing, the crew — I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that much love on any other job, from everyone. It was just a great experience. It went on a lot longer than I thought it would, I was only really filling in for a few episodes in season one, [but] they got a chance to create this arc.
JH: What did you do right afterward?
BT: That’s a good question. You mean that night?
JH: Yeah. After you did that final scene, was there a party? Was it you going home and it was quiet? What was it like for you after filming?
We finished really late. Barrett and I just had a chat and unwound that way. But ultimately I had to just get in my car and go home.
It’s a really great question. I’ve never been asked that before. Because it’s in your body, that’s for sure, and it’s a lot. You’ve got to work through that stuff. It was tricky, for sure. But it was a matter of just having a chat, slowly getting out of wardrobe, and just going home and trying to unwind.
JH: When you got home, was it a sigh of release?
BT: It was a mix of everything. It was release, it was sad, it was heartbreaking but happy as well. It was satisfying. There was a sense of satisfaction as well, in terms of having completed that arc, that storyline. And we gave it our all.
The main emotion despite all those mixed emotions was — it’s very cheesy but I was just really grateful to have gotten to work with Barrett particularly, and be given the gig, and the amount of love. It just was a really, really good experience.
JH: It sounds like you are still pretty close with the folks from the cast. Talk to me about those relationships that you still have even a month after your last scene.
BT: I’m actually having a game of tennis with Miguel on Wednesday. [When I started this show], straight away when I got on set I could tell that these guys, they’re so tight and they’re a really young, vibrant, talented bunch of people, [and we even] had a lot of fun playing music together. They were just super welcoming; they let me into their group really quickly and we had a lot of fun. It was a unique experience in terms of that.
Some of the guys are coming over to my house to watch my final episode on Thursday night, which is kind of unbearable. I find it really hard to watch, so I’m going to have to hide behind the couch.
JH: Looking ahead, what are you looking forward to? What would you like to see yourself do next or are you taking some time?
BT: I’m actually going to Europe for a month [the day after the episode airs]. So I’m going to take a little bit of time. I’ve been learning French for the last seven years and I got myself a Parisian agent last year. So I’m going to go, do a few meetings, and do some more French classes while I’m there, and then just take a trip to Italy.
But I [haven’t] played a role like Ripley before and I really enjoyed it as far as the kind of … it’s a masculine kind of role. I’ve done a lot of softer roles, I suppose, for want of a better word. So I’d like to keep going in that direction, actually. I got a lot of satisfaction out of Ripley.