Ahead of Monday’s sophomore closer, the 31-year-old actor talks to ET about Eddie's devastating loss and what’s to come.
Warning: Spoiler alert! This story contains spoilers from last Monday's episode of 9-1-1. Proceed with caution!
For Ryan Guzman, it's all about family.
Born in Abilene, Texas, and raised in Sacramento, California, the former collegiate baseball star found a new home base in Hollywood with his breakthrough role as Sean Asa in 2012's Step Up Revolution. It was his first major film project, which led him to play Jennifer Lopez’s steamy love interest in Boy Next Door, Lucy Hale's martial arts instructor in Pretty Little Liars and an '80s baseball player in Everybody Wants Some!!. Looking back at his time on the set of his first movie, it's the friendships Guzman formed that he still remembers most fondly.
"I'm still very close to all my Step Up fam," Guzman, 31, tells ET. "That whole Step Up Revolution cast became a really big family that hasn't let go of ties. I definitely didn't think I'd be where I am today [professionally] back then. I just hoped that if I worked hard enough, I could get there."
Flash forward to today, the humble Mexican-American actor calls life "beautiful." Part of that happiness comes from being able to expand his onscreen family even more after joining season two of Fox's action procedural, 9-1-1. He plays Edmundo "Eddie" Diaz, Station 118's newest firefighter and father to a son, Christopher (Gavin McHugh). It's yet another role in which Guzman gets to live out one of his real-life aspirations.
"I think every little kid thinks about being a firefighter when they're young. I remember I had a firetruck, I always played Cops 'n Robbers," he recalls. "These dreams are coming true and coming to fruition through acting. I love acting for that specific reason."
While Guzman loves almost everything about his 9-1-1 character, he says his favorite part about playing Eddie is that he gets to be a dad on TV, after becoming a first-time father in real life this year. The actor and his fiancée, Chrysti Ane, welcomed their first child, son Mateo, in January.
"That kind of foreshadowing, when I was playing a dad while my fiancée was still pregnant, was my favorite," he muses. "I was always wondering how I would actually feel [when Mateo was born]. When I started doing scenes with Gavin, I started really wrapping my head around being a father. I just dove head-in."
"I love being a father. I just know now that there is no length I wouldn't go for my son," he continues, adding that Mateo has already been to set to meet everybody. "I'll definitely use that in my acting now, but it's something I never could have trained for, until I had my actual son. The feelings, the emotions, everything that's going through my head. I know that I would move heaven and earth for him. That being said, I have to portray that same thing with Eddie."
Last week's episode, "Careful What You Wish For," was a game changer for Eddie, as his wife and Christopher's mother, Shannon Diaz (Devin Kelley), tragically died after being struck by a vehicle. Guzman was just as shocked as fans were, telling ET he "flipped out" when he first read the script.
"Filming an earlier episode, there was a scene between Eddie and Shannon and one of the producers simply said, 'Hey, get close, but not too close.' That's all they left us with," he recalls. "We had no clue what that meant at the time. Later on, a couple weeks later, and I read the script, I freakin' threw the script, I was like, 'Noooo! There's no way!' Because I loved working with Devin, she's an incredible actress. So, it was a huge shock to everybody. We didn't realize that someone was going to get killed off like that."
For fans who are still feeling emotional after the episode, Guzman encourages everyone to "just try and stay as strong" as Eddie. "You'll see in this next episode he has a bit of a tough time obviously, because he just lost the love of his life," he teases, adding that fans will get to meet more of Eddie's family members. "He's trying to get back into the swing of things but life has to move forward and you have to live in their honor rather than live in their absence."
"You'll see that Eddie is getting pulled in a few different directions. As parents do, they offer their help, and sometimes their help isn't always needed or asked for," he continues. "Eddie is trying his best to keep his head above water while at the same time trying to just do what's best for Christopher."
In Monday's season two finale, fans will still have to wait a while to see how Shannon's sudden death actually affects Eddie. "It's left to be said, but as for this next episode, things become so chaotic that Eddie doesn't really have an opportunity to kind of sit back and live in his own reality," he shares. "I think he uses the job as a distraction."
And another heartbreaking moment is coming for one other beloved character, Guzman warns.
"I actually got hurt [in real life] not too long ago. I hurt my knee, I sprained my MCL and for a good month I'm walking around like I have a peg leg," he reveals. "So, I would have thought that if anything happens to anybody in 9-1-1 that could be written into the script, I would be getting the injury. That being said, [someone else] gets the injury [in the finale] and certain things happen to this character that will obviously shock the audience."
But, as 9-1-1 typically does, there will be plenty of surprises and happy moments to make up for any tears shed -- one being a fun moment between Eddie and Buck, portrayed by Oliver Stark. Ever since Guzman joined the series, fans on social media haven't been able to get enough of "Buddie" -- and the creators have noticed.
"There is one scene that is an ode to the fans," he shares. "I think the writers were smart about that. They of course don't want to dangle anything in front of the audience's face that's not there, so we're not trying to play with anybody's emotions or anything. But we're definitely having fun with it, on and off set."
Guzman believes that, overall, fans will be happy with how season two wraps up. "What the fans will really enjoy is the fact that all this turmoil happened this last episode, and to see Eddie be shown that he has all this love and support from different people, that he can now call his family, is amazing," he teases. "It's a good conclusion for Eddie."
And luckily, Eddie will continue making even more memories with his firehouse family. Guzman confirmed to ET that he will "definitely" be returning for the third season. He shared that he'd like to see Eddie "get a little crazy" this time around. "With the loss of Eddie's wife and the lack of direction sometimes. Plus, we haven't even experienced any of the PTSD or any of the stuff that happened prior to Eddie becoming a firefighter. So, I'd love to see Eddie break a little bit."
As for Guzman, he plans on spending his hiatus with his own family, "just being a daddy," before production kicks back up later this year.
"I think you talk to any parent, they'll tell you there is no mastering parenting," he jokes. "But I feel like I'm getting to know my son a lot better. I know what he likes and dislikes. These are the times, I've been told, to just really enjoy and sink in, so that's what I'm doing."
The 9-1-1 season two finale airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.