- For extras, see: Background cast
A redshirt is a type of stock character in film or television that is a non-featured character, whose purpose to the plot, usually, is to be killed.
The term does not refer to the actors, only to the characters. The actors that play "redshirt" characters are usually credited (opposite to uncredited in case of background cast) with the status of "guest actor". Therefore, "redshirt" should not be confused with mere membership on Flight 815, which includes background cast and speaking characters. The term "redshirt" is sometimes used synonymously with "background cast" or "extra" by many Lost fan resources (e.g., ), but as correctly defined, this use is incorrect, as "redshirt" refers only to a character type whose primary purpose is to be killed by a device in the plot.
Speaking redshirts are generally depicted by actors hired specifically for those parts from California, such as Arzt, and not from the background extras pool in Hawaii. As such they have generally not appeared as background actors in previously filmed episodes.
Origin of the term
Redshirts are especially common in the science-fiction genre, and the term is derived from the 1966 television series Star Trek, where never-before-seen characters wearing red uniforms (officers from the Security or Engineering departments) almost universally met their demise soon after joining the main characters on any mission away from their starship. Their deaths would illustrate the danger posed by plot devices to the main characters, who of course were never in real danger of being eliminated from the show.
Thus, not only the term itself is a direct reference, also the purpose of the "redshirt" character is clearly defined by its origins.
In the universe of Lost
Examples of guest star redshirts include:
- Daniel Roebuck as a guest star. His character, Arzt, was a typical redshirt (i.e. intended to die) part in the script that was auditioned, and given to an experienced actor from LA. Arzt never appeared on the beach in previous episodes, even though the premise of the storyline was that he has been there all along (as confirmed by island flashbacks in "Exposé").
- Kiele Sanchez (Nikki) and Rodrigo Santoro (Paulo) are main cast members, and have never appeared in the background pool. However the canonical storyline asserts they were there all along, a notion reinforced by the island flashbacks in "Exposé". Paulo and Nikki do not fit the classic redshirt design, as the producers intended more of a plot for them. Through a podcast, the producers referenced that Paulo and Nikki were killed off due to severe audience backlash against the new characters.
- Diane, an Other who was a participant in the Beach camp battle, had a few speaking lines before being killed by an explosion detonated by Sayid.
- The Ambush on the Barracks in "The Shape of Things to Come" features 3 redshirt deaths, one actually wearing a red shirt.
- Sean Whalen (Neil "Frogurt"), was mentioned in "S.O.S.", and appeared in "The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt". He didn't appear on the show until "Because You Left", and died in "The Lie". Neil is a typical redshirt on the show, and his annoying personality and his actual red shirt were foreshadowing his death. He appeared again post-mortem in the alternate reality in "LA X, Part 2" where he ruins Kate's escape and is rude and obnoxious.
- At least 17 redshirts were killed by flaming arrows in "The Lie". Though the exact number is unknown, the producers commented in the official Lost podcast that many people died. As of "The Incident, Part 1", it is strongly suggested that only Sawyer, Juliet, Miles, Charlotte, Daniel, Rose, Bernard, and Vincent survived the flaming arrow attack, thus indicating that all the remaining redshirts/extras were killed, including Steve, Neil "Frogurt", and Craig.
- In "Follow the Leader", an Other named Erik journeys with several important characters, only to be shot soon thereafter. He was wearing a red shirt at the time.
- Note: some Lost fans use the term "redshirt" to refer to all extras, even those who are not scripted to die in a plot device, as well as those characters who never actually appear but are said to have died. Some fans also label on-island guest stars and main cast members "redshirts".
- Redshirts have occasionally been referred to as "randos" or "log-carrying guys".
Then of course there are the extras. The expendable people. "Redshirts" in Star Trek lingo. You know, the security guys in landing parties who were offed at frighteningly regular intervals.
Inside joke quotes
- Arzt took it upon himself to represent the cause of overlooked and underappreciated redshirts. In "Exodus, Part 2", he confronted Hurley with his inattention and the fact that there was a developing clique of 'cooler' survivors who ended up being included on expeditions. Shortly after acknowledging this inequity, he ironically got blown up.
ARZT: You know what? I'm sorry, I'm sorry that I'm not cool enough to be part of your merry little band of adventurers.
ARZT: I know a clique when I see it. I teach high school, pal-y. You know, you people think you're the only ones on this island doing anything of value. I've got news for you. There were 40 other survivors of this plane crash. And we are all people, too.
- The term redshirt is mentioned specifically in the episode "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", as Boone was tying a red shirt to a tree and talking to Locke (Ironically, Terry O'Quinn, who plays Locke, previously guest starred on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation). This conversation was self-referential as it foreshadowed Boone's death.
BOONE: Red shirt.
- In "The Lie", Sawyer found a red shirt and asked who it belonged to. Neil "Frogurt" replied it was his; Frogurt later died in the same episode.
|Barbara Joanna Miller||
- Lost-TV forum redshirts thread Includes info on Faith Fay (SBSSG), Bryan Sato (Richard aka Asian Cowboy), Dane Justman, Christian Bowman (Steve), and Dustin Watchman (Scott); note however that the use of the term "redshirt" here
- Redshirt (Wikipedia)