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Dr. Jack Shephard is a fictional character and protagonist of the ABC television series Lost played by Matthew Fox. Lost follows the journey of the survivors of Oceanic Airlines flight 815 on a mysterious island and their attempts to survive and escape, slowly uncovering more of the much broader island history they are a part of. The character was originally conceived by creator J. J. Abrams, though the direction of storylines owes more to co-creator Damon Lindelof and fellow showrunner Carlton Cuse. Actor Matthew Fox would have some influence on the character along the way; for example, Fox's own tattoos were incorporated into the character's backstory. Although at an early stage in the show's development, the character was originally intended to die in the pilot, the writers soon changed track and Jack became the show's main character from its pilot episode onwards.

The de facto leader of the crash survivors, in the show's first four seasons Jack is very much a man of science; he serves as the antithesis of man of faith John Locke (Terry O'Quinn). However, his experiences in season five mould Jack into a believer, to the point of becoming John Locke's spiritual successor in the final season. His leadership role culminates in him taking briefly over as protector of the island from its immortal guardian, Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and being the one to engage one of the series' villains, the Man in Black (O'Quinn) in a climactic battle to the death. Jack's storylines have incorporated love interests: fellow survivor Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) and Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell), one of the mysterious Others who are the series' visible antagonists for the majority of its run. Other key relationships in the show involve Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), whom he discovers is his half-sister; Hugo "Hurley" Reyes (Jorge Garcia) as his right-hand man; and Sawyer (Josh Holloway), his rival for leadership of the survivors and for the affections of Kate, even when at some points, Sawyer calls him the nearest thing he has as a friend.


Prior to the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, Jack was born into a successful family, with aspirations of following in his father's footsteps. He attended Columbia University and graduated medical school a year earlier than his classmates.

Despite Jack's gifts as a physician, he is haunted by his relationship with his father, a neurosurgeon at St. Sebastian Hospital. Jack exposes his father's alcoholicism, ending his career. In September 2004, Jack's mother, Margo, (Veronica Hamel) orders him to find Christian, who has exiled himself to Australia, and bring him back. Jack finds his father has died and goes to Sydney to identify his body and make arrangements to bring him home. Jack boards Oceanic 815 bound for Los Angeles on September 22, 2004, with his father's casket in the cargo hold.

On the island, Jack plays a key role in the survival of his fellow survivors in the immediate aftermath of the crash, instructing others to help those with injuries and using his medical background to assist the wounded. The survivors look to Jack as their leader; however, he is reluctant to embrace the position and repeats his father's rationale that he does not "have what it takes." Exhausted from tending the wounded, attempts to rescue drowning survivors and sleep-deprived, Jack begins chasing hallucinations of his father in the jungle. He drops his skepticism when he finds his father's coffin but it is empty. Struggling to cope with demands made by the castaways, he meets John Locke in the jungle, who provides some guidance for Jack's leadership. Jack returns to the beach camp and gives a speech on how they are going to live on the island and tells them about the caves; one part of his speech—"live together, die alone"—becomes a mantra of him and the survivors. Through his medical tending and visibility within the camp, Jack quickly develops many personal relationships with the castaways, most notably finding a potential romantic interest in Kate Austen, a right hand man in Hurley Reyes (Jorge Garcia) and a mutual respect for former military torturer Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews).

Throughout the series, it has been stated numerous times that Jack is a natural leader. These things have been demonstrated many times by his ability to think quickly and analyze crisis situations. Jack intentionally represses fear and anxiety, usually in order to remain strong for other people, as he is the one they turn to during crises. Initially, he rejects claims of fellow survivors, such as Rose Nadler (L. Scott Caldwell) and John Locke, who believe they are on the Island for a reason and that the Island has mystic properties. He does this to not give his fellow survivors false hope. On the Island, Jack also seems to repress his feelings for Kate Austen, which he has only twice ever fully admitted to, and even then only once in a very emotional tone of voice. However, after escaping from The Island, Jack and Kate admit their love, move in together, and raise Aaron, Claire's son.

Jack's habit of repression sometimes does flare out, usually in his propensity to become violent when he is enraged. He is also prone to become highly obsessive and willing to do anything to help the survivors, even if it's to his detriment. Jack is, deep down, a very caring person and has sacrificed himself for his crash-mates several times. After being rescued, he sinks into alcoholism and drug abuse out of severe depression. He blames himself for leaving almost all the fellow survivors behind while he was safely rescued. This leads to his delusions that his father is still alive and a suicide attempt, which indicate that Jack has not been completely able to cope with what happened on the island. Digital Spy's Ben Rawson-Jones marked a "difference in the characterization of Jack [who] has become known as the trustworthy, honest type since Oceanic Flight 815 crashed, so his blatant lies about the island under oath were definitely dramatic."[1]

After being rescued, seeing visions of his father, and being visited by John Locke, Jack's outlook underwent a fundamental change. He began to believe in fate and destiny. When Juliet asked Jack why he had returned to the island, Jack told her "because I was supposed to." Jack's faith leads him to sacrifice himself to prevent the island's destruction. He believed that saving the island was what he was "meant to do." In many episodes, Jack is portrayed as having a Messiah Complex.


In the original outline of Lost, Jack was going to be killed halfway through the first episode. Lost co-creator J. J. Abrams was interested in Michael Keaton for the role, as Abrams wanted to work with him. However, scripts were never even sent to him, as the character was made into a regular, and Keaton wasn't interested in a series. The producers felt that if the audience became attached to the character during the first episode, and then he was killed, they might resent the show. His death was meant to shock the audience so they would never know what would happen next. The role ended up going to Matthew Fox, who was "very excited" about it, as it was the genre and tone he was looking for..[2]


For story purposes, the tattoos on Jack's arm read: "He walks among us, but he is not one of us."[3] However, Matthew Fox already had the tattoos when he started on Lost. The producers considered putting make-up over them but, instead, decided to keep them and just fit them in with the plot.[4]

According to Assistant Professor Xinping Zhu of Northeastern University, the tattoo is made up of four Chinese characters (Template:Zh; "鹰", hawk; "击", strike or attack; "长", long; "空", space or sky) from a poem written by Mao Zedong in 1925, and the Lebanese Phalangist symbol. Fox's tattoo translates to "Eagles high up, cleaving the space".[5]

In an interview, Fox said that, for him, getting a tattoo is a "pretty intense experience" and something he would not do in the "spur of the moment". He thought it was a "really cool idea" for Jack to have tattoos.[6] Since Fox used tattoos to represent memories or meaningful events in his life, the writers took a similar approach when dealing with Jack's tattoos.[7]


Critical as well as viewer opinion has been positive for Matthew Fox's Jack Shephard. BuddyTV praised Matthew Fox's lead role performance in "Through the Looking Glass" as "Emmy worthy"[8] The San Diego Union-Tribune's Karla Peterson praised Fox's work in "Something Nice Back Home",[9] The Palm Beach Post's Kevin Thompson "thought [that] Matthew [Fox] did a nice job conveying a wide range of emotions—scared, haunted, frustration, jealousy, just to name a few" in the same episode.[10]

Matthew Fox won a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Television Series for his role as Jack in 2004. He was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2006 for Best Actor in a television series - Drama and a Television Critics Association award in 2005 for Individual Achievement in Drama.[11] He has also won two Saturn awards, including Best Actor on Television in 2005[12] and Best Actor in a Television Program in 2007.[13] In 2010, Fox had received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.


  1. Rawson-Jones, Ben, (February 24, 2008) "S04E04: 'Eggtown'", Digital Spy. Retrieved on June 16, 2008.
  2. "Before They Were Lost". Lost: The Complete First Season, Buena Vista Home Entertainment. September 6, 2005. Featurette, disc 7.
  3. "Revealed in "Stranger in a Strange Land", the ninth episode of the third season.". Retrieved 2010-06-16. [dead link]
  4. Lost: The Complete Second Season – The Extended Experience, Buena Vista Home Entertainment. September 5, 2006. Back cover.
  5. Zhu, Xinping. "Meaning of Tattoos on Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox) 's Left Arm in ABC Show "LOST"". Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of Northeastern University. Retrieved 2008-07-24. [dead link]
  6. "Official Lost Podcast transcript/February 27, 2007". Lostpedia. 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2008-07-24. 
  7. Martell, Erin (2007-02-28). "Lost Audio Podcast Recap: February 26, 2007". TV Squad. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  8. Dahl, Oscar, (May 29, 2007):Lost: Season Finale Thoughts from a Non-Expert"[dead link] BuddyTV. Retrieved on July 6, 2007.
  9. Peterson, Karla, (May 2, 2008) "Lost: 'Something Nice Back Home'", The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved on May 6, 2008.
  10. Thompson, Kevin, (May 2, 2008) "Jack Goes Back To The Future—And It Ain't Looking Good", The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved on June 7, 2008.
  11. Satellites04"
  12. Puig, Yvonne (2005-02-09). "'Potter' tops Saturn nods". Variety. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  13. Kilday, Gregg (2008-06-24). "'Enchanted' runs rings around Saturn Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 

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