9-1-1 star Ryan Guzman says his character, Eddie, will have to learn to loosen the reigns as his son, Christopher, navigates adolescence.

“Christopher, [actor] Gavin [McHugh], actually, is incredibly tall now and he has his own teenage vernacular now,” Guzman, 37, exclusively told Us Weekly while discussing season 7 of the ABC series. “So it is strange, now that I’ve come to know both character and artist, their evolution is in synchronicity. Watching him portray Christopher in this manner now is just, like, ‘Wow, kid, you’ve really grown up.’”

Guzman and McHugh, 13, joined 9-1-1 at the start of the show’s second as a single father and his son navigating the next chapter of their lives after Christopher’s mom, Shannon (Devin Kelley), left them. In her absence, Eddie learned to lean on members of the 118, like Buck (Oliver Stark), for help as he raised his son, who has cerebral palsy. Season 7, however, sees Chris wanting independence from his dad, and Eddie is faced with learning how to parent a teenager.

In the first episode of the season, the twosome find themselves at odds when Eddie discovers Christopher has been dating multiple girls in his class at once. Although he recruits Buck for advice, Guzman told Us that Eddie will need to give Christopher more independence and space moving forward.

“I think with Christopher, it’s going to be more of an exploration towards this new version of himself,” he explained. “And then for Eddie, it’s going to be allowing him to do that because Eddie has always had a strong hold on who Christopher is, what Christopher’s doing, what he can and can’t eat, all that stuff. It’s going to be an opportunity for Eddie to sit back, and can he sit back is the real [question].”

As for the actors themselves, Guzman couldn’t praise McHugh, or his performance, enough. “I feel like he’s been doing an incredible job this season,” Guzman told Us, noting that McHugh plays into the lighthearted tension between the father-son duo “so well.”

Season 7 isn’t all about Christopher’s dating life. Eddie is also navigating his own relationship with his girlfriend, Marisol (Edy Ganem). After the couple jump too quickly into moving in together — while Christopher is “away for a couple of days” in episode 4 — Eddie quickly backtracks the offer.

The realization that the pair are moving too fast is a huge moment of “growth” for Eddie, Guzmain noted, adding that “Eddie needs to understand who he’s dealing with before he invites them into this very convoluted life.”

Putting his son first is also imperative. “I think first and foremost is what it will do for Christopher,” he continued. “He’s always got Christopher on the front end of his mind. So I think there was a lot of growth at the end of this episode and a very hopeful Eddie again.”

In more ways than one, season 7 has presented a lighter side to Eddie, which longtime viewers will know is a shakeup from years past. But after serving in Afghanistan, dealing with the death of his estranged wife, facing panic attacks and PTSD and surviving a nearly fatal gunshot wound, Guzman is ready to let Eddie have some fun.

“We’ve had all the traumatic stuff, the drama, the past seasons of him going through his war and losing all of his friends and so much heaviness,” he told Us. “And I think what the conduit to actually unveiling this new lightheartedness was connecting with his sense of community.”

That community, of course, is the 118 — especially Buck and Captain Nash (Peter Krause), who Guzman calls Eddie’s “rocks.”

“Allowing [Eddie] to be vulnerable in front of [Buck and Bobby] and share his story and getting a safe space has given me as the actor and Eddie as the character, the opportunity to just be lighthearted and have a little bit more fun,” Guzman said. “And I think that’s his mindset now is just, like, how do we turn the frown upside down?”

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