Born July 14, 1966, in Crowheart, WY; son of Francis (a rancher) and Loretta (a teacher) Fox; married Margherita Ronchi, August, 1992; children: Kyle Allison, Byron. Education: Columbia University, B.A. (economics), 1989; studied acting at Atlantic Theater Company, New York, NY, and The School for Film and Television, New York, NY.
Addresses: Office—c/o Touchstone Television, 500 South Buena Vista, Production Building #343, Burbank, CA 91521.
Actor in television, including: Wings, NBC, 1992; Freshman Dorm, CBS, 1992; If I Die Before I Wake (special), 1993; Party of Five, FOX, 1994-2000; Survival of the Yellowstone Wolves (special), TBS, 1996; Behind the Mask (movie), CBS, 1999; Haunted, UPN, 2002; Lost, ABC, 2004—. Film appearances include: My Boyfriend's Back, 1993. Member of a repertory company in Los Angeles, CA, 2000-2002. Also worked as a model and appeared in television commercials.
Though American actor Matthew Fox came to international prominence with his role as Charlie on the hit FOX television series Party of Five, he later admitted he did not handle the fame that came with it really well. After the show ended its six-season run, he took time off, remerging in the 2004 hit series Lost. Fox handled the success much better the second time around as Lost proved to be a hit for its struggling network, ABC.
Born on July 14, 1966, in Crowheart, Wyoming, Fox was the middle of three sons born to Francis and Loretta Fox. He grew up on the family ranch which was run by his father. Until the fifth grade, Fox went to school in a one-room schoolhouse where his mother was the teacher. Another public school he attended was populated primarily by Native American students. At Wind River High School, Fox was an athlete who played football, basketball, and track. Fox considered becoming a farmer, though his father thought he should move east.
Taking his father's advice, Fox went to the East Coast after graduating from high school. In 1984, he moved to Deerfield, Massachusetts, to take a year of college prep courses at Deerfield Academy. The following year, Fox entered Columbia University in New York City on a football scholarship. At Columbia, he studied economics with the goal of becoming a stockbroker on Wall Street. Until the last semester of college, Fox planned on going into business, until he realized it would not be right for him. Fox graduated from Columbia with his B.A. in 1989.
While a college student, Fox had dabbled in modeling. His girlfriend's mother was the owner of a modeling agency and she got him started in the business. He also was represented by the Ford Modeling Agency. Modeling soon led to appearances in a few commercials for Fox, one of which was a large role in a Midas advertisement. By the time he was 24 years old, Fox decided he wanted to try acting as a profession. While his parents were not particularly happy with his career choice, they supported him nonetheless.
To help launch his career, Fox studied acting in New York City. He was a student at the Atlantic Theater Company and The School for Film and Television, both located in New York City. Of his choice to be an actor, he told the Sunday Mail, "Something inside me kept pushing. But it was strange for me because I'm a shy person and getting up in front of people at acting class was painful.… I hated it. Some people are struck by that bolt of lightning that tells them: 'Hey, this is for me.' But my life had seemed more a series of crossroads and deciding which turn to take. But for all the early pain, I love the business."
The genre where Fox spent most of his acting career was television, where it began. One of his first roles on a television program was in a guest spot on the NBC hit situation comedy Wings in 1992. That same year, Fox was cast in his first role a television series. He played Danny Foley on the CBS drama Freshman Dorm. The series focused on first-year students living in a dormitory at a college which was located in California. However, the series was very short-lived: CBS canceled Freshman Dorm after airing only six episodes.
As Fox's career began taking off, his personal life was also undergoing a transformation. In 1992, he married his long-time girlfriend, Margherita Ronchi, a native of Italy. The couple met while Fox was a student at Columbia. The couple later had two children, Kyle Allison and Byron.
After the demise of Freshman Dorm, Fox acted in several projects. In 1993, he made his film debut with My Boyfriend's Back, a comedy that was targeted at teens with an unusual premise. The story focused on a dead high school student who comes back to life to live his one wish of dating a prom queen. Also in 1993, Fox appeared in a CBS School-break Special entitled If I Die Before I Wake. This child-targeted special focused on a high school track team who lose their lives in an airplane crash.
The big break of Fox's acting career came in 1994 when he was cast in the FOX network's dramatic series Party of Five. Fox played Charlie Salinger, the eldest of five siblings who is forced to leave behind his own single, developing life as a carpenter when his parents suddenly die. Fox's Charlie has to raise his younger siblings in their parents' home in San Francisco. While Charlie became their guardian, it was a role he only gradually grew into over the course of the series. Party of Five explored familial and love relationships among the main characters, which became stronger with each episode.
Commenting on his character, Fox told Harriet Winslow of the Washington Post, "That's what I love about Charlie so much, that he's human. His heart is in the right place. He's really a sensitive, good-hearted human being. But he just doesn't think about the consequences of his actions."
While Party of Five received critical praise and was a cult hit from the beginning, it was almost cancelled after its first season due to poor ratings. At the end of the 1994-95 television season Party of Five was ranked 99th out of 103 shows. Despite this situation, the network renewed the show, primarily because of the support its fans showed. After the renewal, FOX became very supportive of the show, which started to do better with certain audiences. Party of Five showed improved ratings over the years. During its six-year run, many issues were covered on the show, often in dramatic fashion. In addition to teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and infidelity, Fox's character ran away from his wedding to the nanny hired to care for his youngest brother and developed Hodgkin's disease in the third season. Charlie later married Kirsten, the nanny, and became a father. Fox found the challenges of playing a cancer patient exciting. He told Alan Pergament of the Buffalo News, "Any actor is going to be really excited about an opportunity to play this type of story line. There's a lot of different layers. You get to show a lot of colors. It's an incredibly emotional thing to go through. It's meaty material, and it's been very, very challenging."
While Party of Five became a success and drew many devoted fans, Fox avoided many public appearances because of the attention brought to him by the show. He chose not to lead a high-profile Hollywood life. Fox did not even want to do cast events. He spent most of his time with his wife and family, and was unable to trust many people, except his cast mates and others who worked on the show. Fox told People, "I fought fame for a long time. People think you are just like that character, and they make judgments about you."
Fox's acting abilities also garnered him more attention. Though he was becoming a more high-profile actor because of the success of Party of Five, Fox turned down the many film offers that came his way. The only role of prominence that he took while working on Party of Five was an appearance in a television movie for CBS called Behind the Mask in 1999. Based on a real story, the role was challenging for Fox. His character, James "Wolfman" Jones, was a mentally challenged man who saves a doctor's life after a heart attack. Behind the Mask co-starred Donald Sutherland as the doctor who gets help for Jones after the incident. In turn, Jones helps the doctor reassess his priorities in life. Ann Hodges, writing in the Houston Chronicle, commented, "Watching the relationship between James and the doctor grow is quite moving in the talented hands of Sutherland and Fox."
Another television project that Fox was involved in during this time period had special meaning to him. He served as host and narrator of a nature special titled Survival of the Yellowstone Wolves. His father's ranch was located in the area and he also appeared in the documentary. Survival of the Yellowstone Wolves looks at the program to reintroduce wolves to the area years after they were hunted to the point of extinction. While some residents support this return, others fear that their reintroduction could lead to problems with their livestock being attacked and killed.
After Party of Five ended its run in 2000, Fox was sorry to see the show end, but knew that it was time. He did not do much television acting for the next two years. Instead, he became a member of a repertory company based in Los Angeles. Fox did everything he could to distance himself from Party of Five and Charlie Salinger. Fox told Penelope Cross of the Herald Sun, "It was an intentional move to let people forget about me in that show. I wanted to come back doing something very different."
It was not until 2002 that Fox acted again on television. In UPN's Haunted, Fox played a private detective who could communicate with the deceased. While the show had the approval of a number of critics, it could not draw fans. Haunted was canceled after only a few episodes.
Two years later, Fox found himself on another hit television show. He played one of the many leads on the dramatic adventure series Lost, which aired on ABC beginning in 2004. Fox played a surgeon named Jack Shephard. Shephard was one of the 48 characters who survive a plane crash on a remote island. While Fox's character emerged as a hero, the first season's episodes featured strange occurrences and many twists and turns. Fox's character takes charge, helping those who needed to be rescued.
Critics found Lost to be an original show, and it found an audience as well. Though ABC was initially unsure if the show would catch on, Lost was the second-highest rated new show on television in the 2004-05 television season. The show went on to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 2005. This time around, Fox enjoyed the fame that comes with a hit show. He was much more comfortable with the attention from fans and the paparazzi. Fox told People, "I'm in a really great place now. I've been doing this for 15 years, and I feel like I'm better at it than I've ever been."
Celebrity Biographies, Baseline II, 2005.
Boston Herald, November 20, 1994, p. 11.
Broadcasting … Cable, October 11, 2004, p. 44.
Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), November 3, 1996, p. 26TV; January 21, 1998, p. 7D; February 28, 1999, p. 14TV.
Chicago Sun-Times, November 19, 1997, p. 63.
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), February 16, 2005, p. H3.
Houston Chronicle, February 27, 1999, p. 7.
People, August 28, 1995, p. 87; May 6, 1996, p. 78; November 8, 2004, pp. 85-86; November 29, 2004, p. 158.
San Diego Union-Tribune, May 3, 2000, p. E9.
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Sunday Mail (Australia), January 7, 1996.
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