For extras, see: Background cast

Boone tying red shirts to trees and discussing Star Trek. ("All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues")

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., [1]), 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".

Official word[]

From the exclusive Lost-TV interview with Damon Lindelof (complete transcript here):

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.

Damon and the lads refer to them as "meat socks."

"That's what's great about Lost," he said. "One of our regular characters can go out on an expedition with two people you haven't seen, then the regular gets killed, the other two come back and now they're regulars, so we certainly want to keep the audience guessing. There is a reason that in addition to the 14 regulars there are 33 other characters who survived the crash. They're not just monster food."

Inside joke quotes[]

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.

HURLEY: O-kay.

—"Exodus, Part 2"

  • 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.
BOONE: Ever watch Star Trek?
LOCKE: Nah, not really.
BOONE: The crew guys that would go down to the planet with the main guys, the captain and the guy with the pointy ears, they always wore red shirts. And they always got killed.
LOCKE: Yeah?
BOONE: Yeah.
LOCKE: Sounds like a piss-poor captain.

—"All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues"

  • 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.


Character Pic Notes
Leslie Arzt ArztS3
  • 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. In previous episodes, Arzt never before appeared on the beach, even though the premise of the storyline was that he has been there all along (as confirmed by island flashbacks in "Exposé").

Edward Mars Mars
  • Fredric Lehne as a guest star. His character, Edward Mars, was a United States Marshal who sought to apprehend the fugitive Kate Austen. Mars survived the crash but died of his injuries soon thereafter. The purpose of his character is to tell Jack that Kate is a fugitive and intended to die soon after.

Barbara Joanna Miller Barbara Joanna Miller2
  • Barbara Joanna Miller, was a Flight 815 survivor who drowned on Day 6 while swimming in the ocean. She was referenced in two episodes: "White Rabbit" and "Born to Run". She died because Jack first reached Boone (who was also drowning) and brought him to shore rather than go directly for Joanna. Jack felt remorse at the fact that he had never spoken to Joanna, and couldn't believe she had died.

Doug Doug
  • Doug was portrayed by Sean Douglas Hoban, who had previously been a member of the middle section background cast, and so had appeared without credit and without a character name prior to receiving a speaking part in "The Shape of Things to Come". He was a member of Locke's camp who had a brief interaction with Sawyer before being shot and killed in the opening seconds of Keamy's team's raid on the Barracks. In this way, he was a traditional redshirt character, in that the character had only a small speaking role and was intended to be killed, though unlike Arzt, Doug had appeared in background for a while prior to his death. In the same scene two other middle section background cast members were also killed, but they were uncredited extras. As previously recurring characters, albeit background, they may also be said to be "redshirts". One was matched by fans to the name Jerome used in a previous episode in dialogue, and the other is known by some fans as the "blonde casualty".

Neil "Frogurt" Neil5x02
  • Neil "Frogurt" was originally introduced in a mobisode "The Adventures of Hurley and Frogurt". He didn't appear in any Lost episode until Season 5. He even had some speaking lines before being shot to death with a fire arrow in "The Lie". He wears a red shirt throughout the first two episodes of Season 5, perhaps as an inside joke.
Scott Jackson Scott-1x07
  • When Ethan said he would kill a survivor each day, the writers of Lost had to kill someone. Scott was chosen to die.

See also[]

External links[]