This handsome, dependable actor has achieved that television rarity – starring on two very different and equally popular TV series – first as older brother and patriarch Charlie to the orphaned Salinger clan on Fox’s family drama “Party of Five” (1994-2000), and a decade later, as cool-under-pressure Dr. Jack Shephard, one of several marooned plane crash survivors on ABC’s adventure drama “Lost (2004 – ). On both shows, Fox exuded a natural calm and confidence whenever chaos loomed, bringing the former model-turned-actor a loyal fan base of women smitten with his scruffy looks and men impressed by his take-charge attitude.
Born on July 14, 1966 to parents Loretta and Francis Fox in Crowheart, WY, Fox was the middle of three brothers growing up on the family’s long-horn cattle ranch. Ever the cowboy, Fox was in the saddle by age six. He attended Wind River High School before attending Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts for a post-grad year. After receiving a football scholarship from Columbia University, he balanced playing football with earning a degree in economics, graduating in 1988 with dreams of Wall Street.
His careers plans shifted dramatically when a girlfriend’s mother, who happened to be a modeling agent, suggested the 6’2” hunk try his hand at modeling instead of trading stocks. Fox landed a few commercials, but turned to acting as his new career-of-choice, studying for two years at The School for Film and Television in NYC.
The young actor landed his first TV role on an episode of “Wings” (NBC, 1990-97) in 1992, but made his debut as a featured player that same year, playing Danny Foley on the short-lived “Freshman Dorm” (CBS, 1992) – a dramatic series focusing on the trials and tribulations of six students entering college in Southern California. For a relative newcomer, Fox continued to find steady work both on the big and small screen, starring in the CBS Schoolbreak Special “If I Die Before I Wake” (1993) before debuting in his first feature film, the teen comedy “My Boyfriend’s Back” (1993).
Then, he hit the big time. Fox landed the enviable role of oldest brother of five siblings orphaned by the sudden death of both parents in a car accident on “Party of Five” (Fox, 1994-2000). More grounded in reality than the network’s other teen dramas of the time – “Beverly Hills 90210” (1990-2000) and “Melrose Place” (1992-99) – the series struck a chord in viewers and joined the other two teen dramas to form the network’s appointment television trifecta. Fox brought warmth and empathy to his Charlie Salinger, a man torn between his need for freedom and his obligation to take care of his younger siblings.
During the “Party” years, Fox and co-star Scott Wolfe set many hearts aflutter – appearing on teen magazines and posters in many a young girls’ room. People Magazine even named Fox (nickname: “Foxy”) as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1996. The grateful actor was so devoted to his hit show, he eschewed feature film offers while working on the series, but did earn strong notices for his work playing a mentally handicapped man opposite Donald Sutherland in the 1999 CBS TV movie “Behind the Mask.”
“Party” wrapped in 2000, leaving Fox to try for another series. He landed the role of Frank Taylor on the horror drama series “The Haunted” (UPN, 2002) but that proved short-lived.
By the time ABC began casting their risky new adventure/supernatural/drama “Lost,” Fox was ready again for a quality part in a good series. The mandatory move to Hawaii didn’t sound bad either. He originally auditioned for the role of Sawyer, but co-creator J.J. Abrams was so impressed with Fox’s reading of the commanding lead hero, Dr. Jack Shepard, that he allowed the actor to read the entire top-secret script, but kept running in and out of the room every 20 minutes asking Fox what thought of it. Abram’s trust in this particular auditioning actor told him he probably had the part.
After moving his family to the island of Oahu where the show was shot, Fox quickly bonded with the multi-cultural cast of actors who were all thrown together to shoot an $11 million-plus pilot that defied description. The first episode featured a violent plane crash, marooning the lucky survivors on a mysterious and seemingly deserted island. Despite their many personality clashes and personal frustrations, the group learned to bond together for survival, with Jack Shepard the glue that held them all together.
“Lost” premiered Sept. 22, 2004 to stellar ratings, becoming, along with “Desperate Housewives,” welcome double-whammy hits for the heretofore ailing network. Fans got hooked and hooked hard. Theories abounded , a la “Twin Peaks”/”X-Files” and all were water cooler fodder the next day – Were the survivors really dead? In purgatory? Trapped in another dimension? And what was up with the little kid talking backwards? Half the appeal of the monster hit show was figuring out exactly what was going on down on Danger Island.
As the group leader and one of the best known cast members, Fox reaped a lot of press – the most he had received since his “Party” days – appearing on the covers of Entertainment Weekly and GQ. He received industry recognition for his role, including 2005 Saturn and 2006 Golden Globe Award nominations for “Best Actor in a Drama.” Fox won a Golden Satellite Award in 2005 and shared the 2006 Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.”
When not shooting the demanding hit, good guy Fox showed his good will toward “Lost” cast and crew by throwing viewer parties at his home every Sunday night and gifting these same folks with a special memento photo album of pictures he took during the shooting of the pilot. These same pictures were deemed good enough for inclusion on the first season DVD – not surprisingly, a blockbuster bestseller as well.