Actor, model. Josh Holloway was born on July 20, 1969, in San Jose, California. While he was still an infant, his family moved to Free Home, Georgia, a small farming town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. His mother worked as a nurse and his father completed two years of medical school before dropping out. His parents’ medical training often came in handy because Holloway and his three brothers roughhoused constantly. “They were always patching us up,” he recalls about his parents. “We rarely made it to the hospital unless we were broken.” Holloway’s family often faced tough financial straits; he grew up in a trailer park and began working part-time at the age of 11, collecting chicken carcasses on nearby farms. “I thought about being a forest ranger,” he remembers about his childhood ambitions. While he was always an outdoorsman, Holloway was also a film buff as a child, and particularly loved The Shining (1980).
Holloway attended Marie Tesley Middle School and then Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia. After graduating from high school in 1987, he enrolled at the University of Georgia—his education partially funded, he says, by a brief stint as a shoplifter. He dropped out of college after only one quarter due to financial constraints, and a lack of interest in his studies. Nevertheless, Holloway says he thoroughly enjoyed his small dose of college life. “I went to UGA for a quarter,” he says. “One quarter of my extended university life … I crashed all the frat parties, dressing like a frat boy, acting like I was one of them. I had too much fun. So I had a good time for the quarter that I was a Bulldog. Go Bulldogs!”
After dropping out of college, Holloway packed his bags and moved across the country to Los Angeles to try his hand at modeling. Upon arrival, he struggled to get his foot in the door of the modeling industry. “I felt like I made the wrong decision for so long,” Holloway recalls. “L.A. will kick your ass. The business is 99 percent rejection.” However, with his rugged good looks and bad-boy persona, Holloway gradually carved out a niche for him as an in-demand male model. Throughout the 1990s, Holloway traveled across the United States and Europe working as a runway model for such prestigious designers as Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. He also modeled for still photographs, appearing in many magazines. Holloway had mixed feelings about his career in modeling. “I used to joke that I couldnt have sat around getting drunk on a Saturday afternoon and come up with an easier job than this,” he says. “But it had its difficulties and its entrapments. For me, it was a means to an end. I wanted to see the world and travel and be a gypsy, and that’s what you were.”
Increasingly restless in his modeling career, by the late 1990s Holloway began to try to make the transition into acting. He made his television debut in a 1999 episode of the CBS series Angel, in which he was credited as “Good Looking Guy.” He followed that with small roles in the films Cold Heart (2001) and Dr. Benny (2003), as well as appearances in the TV shows CSI (2003) and NCSI (2004).
Nevertheless, Holloway was still an unproven and inexperienced actor when, in 2004, ABC decided to cast him in its new series, Lost, which follows the stranded survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious tropical island. Holloway played James “Sawyer” Ford, a con man with the manners of a Southern gentleman. The show became an instant success, debuting to the best ratings of any ABC show in years and earning rave critical reviews. Even amongst the large ensemble cast of talented and beautiful actors, Holloway managed to stand out. In January 2005, when TV Guide released a series of collectable covers featuring different Lost actors, Holloway’s cover was the runaway bestseller. In 2005 alone, he landed on the cover of TV Guide four times and was named one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” He has been nominated for numerous Teen Choice Awards, and in 2006 he and the rest of the Lost cast shared the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series. Lost completed its sixth and final season in May 2010.
With Lost wrapped, Holloway hopes to transition from television into feature films. Rather than hastily accepting any offer thrown his way, though, he plans to choose future roles carefully. “I’m gonna be patient,” he says. “I learned some hard lessons early on. You really have to be discerning, because you dont have many shots.” Asked what he looks for when evaluating potential roles, Holloway responded, “I’m looking for juicy roles in ensemble casts with veteran actors. I’m not looking to carry a movie just yet.”
Despite years as a Hollywood heartthrob, Holloway is still adjusting to life in the spotlight. While his fellow Lost cast member, Evangeline Lilly, says that Holloway is still the same Southern gentleman he was before the show—”He’s the guy who will open doors for women, who will always carry the bags for women and make sure they feel protected”—Holloway himself admits to feeling the pressure of fame. “I could completely do without the fame,” he says. “It makes me self-conscious. It is a responsibility. I believe that if people look up to you in any way, especially kids, then you have a responsibility to inspire them, both in your work and in your life. So, for me, that is a weight.”
Holloway married longtime girlfriend Yessica Kumala on October 1, 2004. They have one daughter, Java Kumala Holloway, born in 2009.