“9-1-1”'s Malcolm-Jamal Warner on Amir's emotional and 'exhausting' episode with Bobby

"It's not the neatly tied-in-a-bow ending that one might expect," the actor teases of what's to come on the ABC drama.

All Malcolm-Jamal Warner knew when he signed up to guest on 9-1-1 was that he'd be playing a "villain."

"That really intrigued me," the Cosby Show and The Resident alum tells Entertainment Weekly. "And I'd never done a show where I've had to wear a prosthetic, so it felt like this was something that would definitely take me out of my comfort zone, and I thought that was exciting."

And playing Amir on the ABC first-responder drama has certainly done that. Through his conversations with showrunner Tim Minear, Warner crafted a complex character — a man who lost his wife a decade ago in the fire Bobby (Peter Krause) accidentally set, who now works as a traveling nurse and wears the scars of that tragedy on his face and on his heart.

On season 7, episode 8, "Step Nine" — which aired Thursday — Amir makes his tie to Bobby known at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Bobby, seeking to make amends, eventually tracks Amir down along the Mexico-United States border, where the nurse has run into trouble with the local cartel. Coping with a gunshot wound, Amir must rely on the one man he wants nothing to do with to reach help.

Reflecting on the harrowing episode, Warner speaks to EW about bonding with Krause while filming, his feelings on prosthetics now that's worn one, and what's to come for the rest of the season.

<p>Disney/Chris Willard</p> Malcolm Jamal Warner as Amir on '9-1-1'

Disney/Chris Willard

Malcolm Jamal Warner as Amir on '9-1-1'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the character evolve after your initial conversations with Tim about Amir being a "villain"?

I think what really came out was tapping into his humanity. You have this guy who is, because of his own experience, a healer of sorts. He's the guy that's helping everyone else — easing their suffering as a way to ease his suffering. He's on this track with his humanity, but then he's suddenly faced with all of this anger and resentment that he's built up for all of these years. That made for an interesting experience, in having to face our own demons.

Amir chooses to confront Bobby very publicly. That's an intense speech.

It was a three-page monologue I finally got on a Saturday night, and we had to shoot it on Monday. I spent Sunday getting the lines down, and then.... That was my second day of work, so Peter and I, we hadn't had time to bond or really connect. So it was cool being able to use that — Amir having this relationship with this guy, and then for me as an actor, finding this relationship and this connection with Peter at the same time. It was an Amir experience and a Malcolm experience.

Related: 9-1-1 crew member dies in car accident after work: 'Please stay safe out there'

Well, you had plenty of time to bond filming the rest of the episode out in the desert...

Being miserable with someone else is much better than being miserable by yourself. Man, everything about that episode was tough. It was exhausting, but I think because Peter and I were having this shared experience, we laughed a lot. We were up there in Antelope Valley for four days, five days, so we knew we had to get through it. But as tough as the shooting conditions of it were — with all the sand and the wind and the heat, and the cold, with all of that discomfort — I felt like every time we started shooting, and we were on camera, all of that discomfort informed our interaction. The whole time, it felt like we were doing really good work, and I think we were both happy that we were able to transcend the discomfort of the shooting conditions.

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So, you were excited about wearing a prosthetic for the first time. Thoughts now that you've done it? Couldn't have made that Antelope Valley sun any cooler.

Yeah, the first two days were awesome. I was taking videos and pictures. Then, I think when I had to start wearing it the third day in a row and the fourth day, I was like, "This isn't fun." It was two and a half hours every morning. When I think about the Star Trek actors or actors who have to go on, and they spend four or five hours just in makeup alone, I do not envy those guys.

The episode ends with Bobby and Amir seemingly coming to a place where they can each move forward separately, though without any forgiveness. But Tim has told us Amir plays a significant role in the final episodes of the season. What can you tease about that?

Oh, man.... That it's not the neatly tied-in-a-bow ending that one might expect. [laughs]

9-1-1 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.