It was, sadly, the best date of my life. The weather was perfect, the food was good, and it just kind of meandered on without feeling like it had to be about something, you know? By the time Matthew Fox walked me to my car outside his house on the beach in Oahu, I expected to feel ashamed. What kind of reporter gets seduced by the obvious charms of an actor? An actor who was on Party of Five?
But the shame never came. Like George Clooney or Steve McQueen, Fox is a guy men feel okay about liking. He’s serious without taking himself seriously; he looks like an action hero but has the voice of Adam Sandler—just a little too small for him; he’s not so striking that it’s implausible he’d be one of your buddies.
Despite the good looks and a skill set pulled from a romance novel (fly fishing, surfing, flying glider planes, horseback riding, rebuilding cars, gambling at the track), Fox, who just turned 39, seems like a guy who shouldn’t be famous. He’s quiet and reserved and calm and has avoided interviews. But now that he’s on ABC’s deserted-island drama Lost—which in 2004, its first season, was one of the top 10 shows and received 12 Emmy nominations—he’s willing to hang out with me. And because he’s one of those guys who do everything as well as they possibly can, he wants to make the day special. For both of us.
He’s done everything but pack us a picnic lunch. He begins our date with a tour of the north shore of Oahu. As we’re driving in his Audi, the backseat littered with CDs by the Decemberists, the Ponys, and Juliette and the Licks, Fox tells me he shaved his head shortly after Party of Five in order to distance himself from Charlie Salinger, the oldest, responsible brother in the nineties orphan-family drama. “I was playing a character who was a little two-dimensional. It was tremendously soft. The male characters were written like what women think they want men to be like. Not what they really want. Because women don’t want to admit they want men who are half-devils. Which they do.” I nod in manly agreement, as if I too have a significant percentage of devil in me. I don’t think Fox is buying it.
We pull over at a small park near the beach where Lost shoots most of its scenes, and Fox whips out a basketball. This is not good for me. I am a nerdy spaz at all sports, but basketball brings out a whole other level of Jerry’s Kids in me. Fox played basketball in high school, along with football; he also ran hurdles, sprinted, and did the long jump. He was playing wide receiver for Columbia in 1988 when fans tore down the goalposts in celebration after the team broke the then-longest losing streak in Division I-AA football—44 games. While we’re shooting he tells me he’s furious at Terrell Owens for endangering his beloved Philadelphia Eagles by holding out to renegotiate his contract. When I suggest that Fox is undoubtedly going to pull the exact same thing on ABC, he admits, “I’m possibly doing something similar. But I took a massive pay cut to do this part. I just believed in the project.”