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Currently starring as " Mike Delfino" on ABC's sensational new series "Desperate Housewives". Denton has been one of Hollywood's busiest actors since he hit town with a training background that has launched many performers into stardom -- a solid body of respected work in the Chicago theatre. Denton, who originally attended college on a basketball scholarship, wasn't bitten by the acting bug until he was 20. He landed the role of George Gibbs in a Nashville production of Our Town, got fine reviews, but thought there was a more solid career in selling advertising. He did that in Tennessee and then in North Carolina for four years, before taking off for Chicago to risk everything to become a professional actor. He was soon accepted as one of the town's brightest and busiest actors. After earning a key casting when the Untouchables series came to town to film, Denton was drawn to Los Angeles, where his strong theatre reputation had preceded him, and he was quickly locked in with choice turns in film, on TV and on stage. He started building his big screen profile with performances in such films as Primary Colors, Face/Off and That Old Feeling, but soon off-beat roles in adventurous TV series were claiming his time. In 1997 he landed the role of the eerily sociopathic Mr. Lyle on the hit drama The Pretender That was followed by The Pretender television films, Pretender 2001 and Pretender: The Island of the Haunted. In 2001 Denton was cast by ABC to star opposite Kim Delaney in Steven Bochco's Philly series, which was critically acclaimed but short-lived. But his growing reputation soon led to a new series casting him as a top player in this nation's homeland security community, Special Agent Jon Kilmer on Threat Matrix.
Acting obviously is serious work for the handsome and athletic star. His Chicago training with some of that area's most excellent teachers pointed him in that direction. Denton's first role there was as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire and his last was the terrorist on the French farce, Lapin, Lapin. He was a company member of the Griffin Theatre and at the Strawdog Theatre Ensemble. He added a steady string of roles and accolades to his quickly growing list, including one of the leads in the world premiere of Flesh and Blood, performing in and composing the music for The Night Hank Williams Died and his portrayal of Kentucky preacher C.C. Showers in The Diviners, which gained him a coveted Joseph Jefferson Best Actor nomination. For these performances, Denton was listed as one of Chicago's hottest actors by Screen Magazine. In Los Angeles he appeared in the premieres of Asylum at the Court Theatre, Locked Up Down Shorty's at the Powerhouse Theatre and In Walked Monk at the Hudson Theatre. In addition to his series-starring roles on TV, his guest appearances include JAG, Slider, Dark Skies, Two Guys and a Girl, Ally McBeal and The West Wing. Denton was born on January 20, 1963, in Nashville, Tennessee.
James Denton: A "Desperate" Daddy
Wisteria Lane just welcomed its newest resident. Desperate Housewives hunk James Denton and wife Erin O'Brien Denton are celebrating the birth of a baby girl.
Malin O'Brien Denton made her grand entrance Tuesday morning at an undisclosed Los Angeles-area hospital, tipping the scales at 7 pounds, 5 ounces.
"They are really great, really great," publicist Susan Madore said, adding that the family returned to their Glendale, California, home just hours after the delivery.
Malin is the second child for Denton, 42, and his personal trainer wife of three years. The couple also have a 22-month old son, Sheppard.
The Nashville native stars as the lovable but shady plumber Mike Delfino opposite Teri Hatcher.
Before landing his breakout role on Housewives, Denton costarred in the NBC sci-fi series The Pretender and racked up several guest-starring roles on such shows as Philly, Reba and the defunct Threat Matrix.
Desperate Housewives James Denton Ready For Topless Exposure
DENTON'S DESPERATE MEASURES TO LOOK GOOD TOPLESS
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES heart-throb JAMES DENTON went on a crash course of chewing tobacco, drinking bourbon and running daily to look great for his topless scenes.
The 42-year-old, who plays hunky plumber MIKE DELFINO, fasted for a week after being told he had ten days to prepare for his first flesh-bearing scene.
Denton only indulged in JACK DANIEL'S whisky and tobacco in a bid to slim his waist.
He says, "I knew I could bulk up faster than I could lose weight. I tried to beef up the top half, so the middle would look smaller."
Oprah Helps 'Housewives' Star James Denton Live Baseball Dream
The World Champion Boston Red Sox -- it still sounds odd to say that -- got a little dose of "Desperate Housewives" magic on Saturday when James Denton took batting practice with the team. Denton's taste of the major leagues, described as his "wildest dream," was made possible by that notorious dreammaker and "Desperate Housewives" fan Oprah Winfrey.
On an earlier taping of Winfrey's show, the all-powerful host asked Denton what his dream was and the "Threat Matrix" star said he'd love to "take batting practice with a major-league team." With Denton in Fort Meyers, Florida on Saturday, Winfrey and the city's mayor, Jim Humphrey, helped set up the surprise visit to the formerly cursed Sox camp.
Oprah's "Wildest Dreams" bus picked Denton up and took in to the spring training facilities, where he was given a Sox uniform with his name and the number "05" on the back. He did drills with several Red Sox players and did batting practice with Ron Jackson, the team's hitting coach.
"I had a great time," Denton gushes. "Ron Jackson and the Red Sox took great care of me. I want to thank Bronson Arroyo and Jason Varitek for taking time out of their schedule to make me feel welcome. Both of them seem like great guys. Jason even gave me one of his batting gloves."
Naturally, Oprah's cameras were following Denton the entire time and his episode will air in May.
Desperate Housewives James Denton Unlikely Sex Symbol
DENTON'S A SURPRISED SEX SYMBOL
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES star JAMES DENTON has to work so hard to maintain his muscular physique, he wishes he'd landed the role of MIKE DELFINO when he was 10-years younger.
The 42-year-old feared his chances of playing a sex symbol had evaporated when he turned 40, and he's still shocked he's made the transition from bad guy to heart-throb so late in his career.
However, all his hard work in the gym has paid off - because he's becoming the new GEORGE CLOONEY. Denton says, "I thought my window of hunkiness had closed and I never imagined I'd be playing that kind of character at my age - but I'm certainly enjoying it.
The role presents a number of different challenges for a guy my age and I'm under a lot of pressure to look good. I immediately went to the gym and worked my guts out. I'm always questioning why I didn't get a role like this in my 30s. It's such hard work now.
"I've made my career playing bad guys, so this is quite different for me. Of course, I'm flattered to be compared to George Clooney - it's a massive compliment."
'Housewives' Hunk James Denton Happy to Be a Hit
ABC's Sunday smash "Desperate Housewives" has emerged as one of the TV season's bona fide phenomena, a bracingly original water-cooler show that has been embraced by critics and viewers across the country.
All the ensuing hoopla is great fun, says "Desperate" cast member James Denton, but it pales next to something else every actor craves -- job security.
"To tell the truth, it's more relief than anything else," says the 42-year-old actor, who plays hunky Wisteria Lane plumber Mike Delfino on the tongue-in-cheek soap. "I've been on so many shows that were always 'on the bubble,' where you're constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for the suits to arrive on the set and pull the plug.
"'Desperate Housewives' is a whole different paranoia for the actors: Everybody is scared they're going to get killed off, which is kind of different. Otherwise, it's just nice to go to work knowing that the network is behind us 200 percent."
So far, only one prominent character -- Martha Huber, the neighborhood busybody played by Christine Estabrook -- has actually met her maker on the show. This is not counting Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong), whose startling suicide launched the show with such a literal bang last fall.
While there's a distinct undercurrent of menace and possible violence to the series, however, Denton is optimistic that Mike is going to be around for a while. For one thing, his romance with neighbor Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) is a front-burner story line. For another -- well, series creator Marc Cherry finally told him what's in store for Mike.
"For a long time, Marc resisted telling us what was going to be happening with our characters, partly because he didn't want us to feel awkward in interviews where we couldn't reveal certain things," Denton says. "But a couple of situations have come up in Mike's story where I needed to know some things that haven't been revealed to the audience or the other characters, so Marc finally just sat down and told me everything."
Denton doesn't want to spoil any surprises, but he's willing to clarify some important plot points. For example, Mike really is a plumber, although viewers will soon discover that he does have a somewhat darker side in upcoming episodes.
"When they aired the pilot, which ended showing Mike with a gun and having a questionable phone call, a lot of viewers understandably jumped to the conclusion that he was a cop or an FBI man or something," Denton says. "That's what I love about Marc Cherry's sense of humor. Nope, Mike's just a plumber with a gun."
He also has some surprises due to unfold any week now, the actor adds.
"There are a couple of huge bombs to be dropped about Mike and the big story line about Mary Alice's suicide, although I'm not going to say they're connected," Denton says. "I was happy to hear that, because any time you have an audience going along for the ride with you, you want them to be satisfied, so you don't want the payoff to be: 'I was in the shower all year.' No, this payoff is very smart, and I think everyone will be well-satisfied."
He's also grateful to add some new layers to his character, who has been Susan's knight in shining armor in many respects. That may win him sighs from female viewers, but bland niceness doesn't give an actor a lot to sink his teeth into.
"It's actually kind of interesting, this delicate balance we have to maintain, because you want Mike to be edgy enough to be interesting, but he also has to be a good enough person that the audience wants him and Susan to end up together."
Don't look for their romance to get smoother anytime soon.
"We had thought the triangle, which includes Nicolette Sheridan's Edie, had pretty much played itself out, but that hasn't proven to be the case, which is great because Nicolette is so much fun to work with," Denton says. "That leaves us free to play with the TV convention of bringing Mike and Susan together, then breaking us up, then bringing us back together."
Denton's amorous exploits with television's housewives aren't limited to his ABC gig, either. On Friday, Feb. 4, he guest stars on The WB sitcom "Reba," playing a marriage counselor who gets the title character (Reba McEntire) and her nemesis, Barbra Jean (Melissa Peterman), in a romantic lather.
He agreed to the gig largely because "Reba" executive producer Kevin Abbott hired Denton for one of his first major Hollywood gigs: a busted 1998 sitcom pilot.
"When Kevin asked me if I would be interested, I jumped at it, because I love him and I'm a big fan of Reba's, being a Nashville kid," says Denton, a native of the Tennessee capital. "I had an episode off [on 'Housewives'], so the timing, everything, was right.
"We had a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing it," he adds. "Reba is just very good, naturally. But then, all those actors are just fantastic. It's a real shame that show doesn't get more promotion, because those actors are doing some really good work. I had a great time with them."
Otherwise, Denton is enjoying the fact that the large cast on "Housewives" means that even a major player like him gets ample time off to spend with wife Erin and their son, Sheppard, who turns 2 in March, the same month they await the birth of a daughter.
"And that will be it for us," he says. "We're really fortunate in that we were hoping to have one of each, and our family will be complete in March. With 10 series regulars and so many story lines, this show is just a perfect scenario when raising kids."
Meet the Sexy, Confident Men of 'Desperate Housewives'
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia...And Teri, Teri, Teri...And Eva, Eva, Eva...
Everywhere you look, the lovely ladies of Desperate Housewives are gracing magazine covers, bus-stops, entertainment-news programs and, um, an Internet scoop columns.
Meanwhile, the underappreciated fellas of Desperate Housewives have to be feeling a little Jan Brady at this point, no? They weren't even invited to this year's Golden Globes. And though, yes,
the girls were nominated and the word Housewives is in the title, I think it's high time we recognize that behind every woman is a good (or corrupt or creepy) man.
So, just for you fans, I sacrificed and met up with a few of the fine male specimens of Wisteria Lane.
And lemmetellya, if there's one man worth waking up at 3 a.m. for, it's Mike Delfino, aka Jamie Denton, aka the Desperate Housewives plumber who can fix my faucet anytime. I bumped into Jamie D. at this week's early-morning SAG Award nominations, where he said to me, "I know you! "You're the girl who is so in love...with our show." (Phew. For a second there, I thought he was on to me. And his missus would not be pleased.)
Turns out, Jamie has a beef with neighbor-killer Paul Young, aka Mark Moses, who, as you might remember, placed incriminating items in his garage recently. "Do me a favor," Jamie said upon hearing I'd be seeing Mark later that day. "Give him hell for me, because thanks to him, it doesn't get any easier for me. Everything with the cops sort of spirals out of control real fast and throws a wrench in Mike and Susan's relationship. It does not look good for them."
Later, Mark shot back. "He's no angel himself! I don't go around breaking into houses, leaving screwdrivers in the wrong place. I don't come in and start leading women on and the rest of that stuff. Sure, I killed Mrs. Huber, but for a good reason: She didn't return the blender. So there, Jamie!"
For the record, it does sound like Mike Delfino is up to some shadiness when it comes to Susan (Teri Hatcher). "Mike has other intentions with her," Jamie says. "So, you have to question how sincere he is or if he's just working his way through the neighborhood."
Meanwhile, Mark claims his character, Paul, is simply "misunderstood," and says, "I'd ask the guy out for dinner, I'd take him out for drinks. He's a great guy! Play golf with him, sure! Deep down, he's a fantastic guy." But then he winks.
Which, by the way, is precisely what I had to stop myself from doing while meeting up with Ricardo Chavira (Gabrielle's husband, Carlos), a Texas teddy bear who couldn't be flirtier in person. Yee-haw.
Good news. Despite that recent jail sentencing, Ricardo says he's sticking around. "When I read the episode, and she had thrown the passport in the fireplace, I was like, 'So, what does this mean?' But one of our executive producers was like, 'Oh, Ricardo, no. We've got the highest percentage of minorities and Latinos watching our show than any other prime-time show out there. You'll be all right.' "
As for what's coming up on the show, Desperate writer Kevin Murphy tells me, "In the weeks to come, we're going to dimensionalize Edie a bit more. We're going to spend time exploring her past and her relationship with Susan. Also, things are going to get weirder and stranger in Bree and Rex's relationship."
Kevin reveals they'll solve the majority of Wisteria mysteries by spring, but there will be more. "We know what our (end of the season) cliffhanger is, and it's fantastic. The audience is going to be dying!" I already am.
James Denton desperate for a threesome
'Desperate Housewives' star James Denton has confessed he wants a threesome with his sexy female co-stars.
The handsome actor, who plays Mike Delfino in the hit US show, has admitted his ultimate fantasy would be to bed both Teri Hatcher and Nicolette Sheridan - who play love rivals vying over James's character - at the same time.
He said: "They're both really fantastic. I would love both of them - at the same time, absolutely. That would be a perfect world."
The 42-year-old actor also admitted he had fulfilled every one of his sexual fantasies before marrying wife Erin O'Brien.
'Desperate' days for James Denton
If you want to spark a miniature riot, send James Denton into Times Square at the height of the tourist-fueled holiday shopping frenzy. On this chilly Sunday morning, the Desperate Housewives hunk wanders out for a photo shoot. But within minutes, he finds himself surrounded by six besotted Connecticut housewives snapping pictures and cooing over the actor.
"You're so nice!" one woman trills, posing with Denton for yet another shot.
Denton is unfazed: "You can't get through dinner. You can't shop. It's a great problem to have."
He can thank ABC's runaway smash Desperate Housewives, the tale of a group of suburban women and their sordid antics. The show co-stars Denton as Mike Delfino, the mysterious plumber who's hiding a major secret. But unlike the cagey Delfino, the real Denton is friendly and open.
But not open enough to reveal what Delfino, with his gun and stacks of greenbacks, is really doing on Wisteria Lane, aside from igniting a hot romance with lonely housewife Susan (Teri Hatcher). We know Mike is a widower who lives with his dog and works as a plumber. Or is it all just a front?
"He's on a very personal mission," says Denton, 41. "He's not a cop or a private eye. Mike is there because somebody in his past has done him wrong.
"He knows that someone on Wisteria Lane is responsible, and he has to spy on all the families to gather information and figure out which family it is."
And it's that mystery surrounding Mike that makes him so alluring, says the show's executive producer and creator, Marc Cherry.
Initially, Cherry wanted to cast an Italian actor but went with Denton because "he is so wholesome and Midwestern. I'm not surprised that the reaction to Jamie is this big. We think he's a good guy, and we want him to be a good guy, but he's not acting like a good guy."
But here's some good news: Unlike Friends, which kept viewers hanging for 10 seasons to find out Ross and Rachel's fate, Desperate Housewives viewers soon will begin to figure out who Mike really is.
"People find out the pieces pretty quickly," Denton says. "Mrs. Huber is already killed. You know she wrote the note. Marc is being great about not stringing people along."
Denton says that despite tabloid reports about friction among the show's leading ladies, everything is just hunky-dory.
"None of us are kids. We're all about the same age," Denton says. "We've all been around love enough to know how lucky we are. I've never seen anybody have a cross word on the set, and I'm there a lot. All the women just got brand-new trailers, so they're happy."
In real life, Denton is married to personal trainer Erin O'Brien. The couple are expecting their second child, a daughter due in March.
The two have an 18-month-old son, Sheppard. They've already hit Central Park, and next on the ultra-casual Denton's agenda is to buy a decent outfit for an upcoming TV appearance.
"I bought land in Montana, and in a perfect world, this show would run for four years and then you'd never see me again," Denton says with a laugh.
James Denton plays a guest role on the WB's ''Reba''
'DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES' STAR JAMES DENTON SWAPS WISTERIA LANE FOR HOUSTON, TEXAS IN A GUEST-STARRING ROLE ON THE WB'S 'REBA'
Featured as one of People Magazine's Sexiest Men Alive, "Desperate Housewives'" super-hot star James Denton wrapped production this week on an episode of The WB's hit comedy "Reba." Starring singing legend Reba McEntire, "Reba" airs Fridays (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET). Denton's episode is slated to air during February Sweeps.
Denton plays the role of Dr. Morgan, Brock (Christopher Rich) and Barbra Jean's (Melissa Peterman) handsome new marriage counselor. In the episode, Barbra Jean confesses to Reba (Reba McEntire) that she has developed a serious crush on Dr. Morgan and enlists her help in firing him. However, Reba is put in an awkward situation when she finds herself attracted to the doctor and agrees to go on a date with him, knowing that it will most likely devastate Barbra Jean.
A Nashville native, Denton's television credits include starring roles in "The Pretender," "Philly," "Threat Matrix" and this season's hit freshman drama "Desperate Housewives." He has also guest starred on "JAG," "Slider," "Dark Skies," "Two Guys and a Girl," "Ally McBeal" and "The West Wing." His feature film credits are "Primary Colors," "Face/Off" and "That Old Feeling."
Hunk James Denton's proud of roots
The biggest hit on TV stars an actor with deep Fort Myers ties. James “Jamie” Denton plays Mike Delfino, the single neighbor on ABC’s hot new hit, “Desperate Housewives.”
The 41-year-old actor has been described as “the bachelor hunk of the show — the dreamboat plumber of Wisteria Lane.”
And his response to the instantaneous success from “Desperate Housewives?
“I’m reeling from it,” he said in a phone interview from his North Hollywood home, where he lives with his wife and son.
His success doesn’t surprise local relatives.
“He is a wonderful person,” said John Sheppard, a local retired attorney and second cousin. “He can't help it that he's handsome and a hunk. He's even nicer in person.”
Denton’s mother, Mary Jean Woolslair, was born and raised in Fort Myers. She also earned another kind of fame — she was the Queen of Edisonia in the mid-1950s.
One of the strangest coincidences is that "Desperate Housewives" takes place on Wisteria Lane. Denton's mother, who passed away in 2002, was nicknamed "Wisty" because an uncle said, "she's as pretty as a little Wisteria."
"When I first saw that on the script I laughed out loud," Denton said. "It's not a common name. It's a pretty outrageous coincidence."
Denton spent many summers in Fort Myers riding his bike up and down McGregor Boulevard. His grandfather was prosecuting attorney John Woolslair.
His Fort Myers roots mean a lot to him. Denton named his 2-year-old son Sheppard after John Sheppard. Denton's first girlfriend, Laurie McNew of Fort Myers, was also on the court of the Edison Pageant in the mid-80s. Denton's mother's best friend was Beverly McNew.
Denton's mother went to college in Tennessee, married and raised Denton and two siblings near Nashville. Denton graduated from college and took a job selling advertising for CBS. When he was 28 he decided to ditch his job for an acting career.
For five years he performed in Chicago theater. A friend mentioned him to a Los Angeles talent manager, John Cosby, who represents Rene Russo and Charlize Theron. Denton decided to give Hollywood a try. He hasn't looked back since.
"I haven't been out of work ever since," he said.
That work included special agent John Kilmer in ABC's "Threat Matrix" last year. He was also cast in "The Pretender," and "Philly" and had guest appearances on "JAG," "Ally McBeal," "The West Wing," "The Drew Carey Show."
"Threat Matrix" got canceled last year, and Denton auditioned for "Desperate Housewives" one month later. They shot the pilot in March.
"We knew the network put a lot of eggs in our basket," he said. "I knew we would do well, but nobody knew we would be the number one show on TV. It's kind of mind blowing."
So far, his life hasn't changed much.
"We're still getting paid the same as if it was number 50," he said. "At least a couple of times a day a stranger will come up to me and want to talk about the show."
It's fun to talk to fans about the show, he said. He doesn't understand actors who complain about success.
"Bottom line is that you beat the system when you're an actor," he said. "There's no room for whining. I've been on the other side of it. I've been on shows nobody watched."
"Desperate Housewives" is filmed at Universal Studios where "Leave it to Beaver" was staged.
"There are very few similarities with that show," he laughed. "I get to bounce to between Nicollette Sheridan and Teri Hatcher. And all that bouncing around between sexy actresses doesn't bother his wife, Erin O'Brien.
"My wife was an actress in a former life, and now she's a personal trainer," he said. "She knows what the drill is."
There is no feuding on the show, he reports. The only tensions exist when scripts come in a little late.
"The scripts are hard to write, to achieve darkness, and be really be funny," he said. "It's tricky to write and take the time to get scripts out. It's a function of a show that's smart and they care that much about."
In between scripts, Denton enjoys success and counts his blessings.
"I am very fortunate," he said. "I have a number of friends who are better actors than I and can't even get an agent or an audition, much less work."
His recent success still surprises him.
"I never anticipated any kind of attention outside of a theater audience when I got into this, so all of it now is a little unnerving," he said. "Sure beats being on a show nobody's talking about, however."
James Denton turns Wisteria Lane into our town
James Denton knows a thing or two about turning heads. The actor was cast in his very first role thanks to an eagle-eyed churchgoer. "I was singing in the choir, and we used to do Easter musicals and stuff like that," he remembers. "This lady saw an Easter musical where I had, like, two lines playing Jesus. She was doing Our Town for this big celebration outdoors in Tennessee and said, 'I think you'd be great at this,' and talked me into it. That was how it started."
These days, Denton is inspiring decidedly non-churchly thoughts andgenerating water-cooler buzz as Mike Delfino, the dashing plumber with a secret on ABC's blockbuster Sunday-night hit, Desperate Housewives. The show blends sudsy storylines with compelling characters and a juicy mystery: Why did cheery suburban homemaker Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) take her own life?
As Mike, who may or may not be connected with this twisty central storyline, Denton is the resident male heartthrob on Housewives, inspiring a battle of feminine wiles between sweet Susan (Teri Hatcher) and scheming Edie (Nicollette Sheridan). Don't expect him to let that "hunky plumber" label go to his head, though. "You just have to figure, 'Well, it's a role in the show that's designed to make people pull for Teri's character and hope that she gets the right guy,'" he says. "No matter what you look like or how you play Mike, as long as you're not a serial killer, people are going to love you if you make Susan happy. That's really the way I look at it, because if you get too caught up in the whole 'romantic lead' or 'leading man' or physicality of it, then you just pick yourself apart, because you know there are going be women that watch the show and go, 'What's the big deal with him?'"
Denton's job doesn't merely require that he stand around and look handsome, however. It's been hinted that Mike has a hidden agenda and is secretly investigating the colorful residents of Wisteria Lane. Denton manages the neat trick of making Mike an engaging regular guy while also lending the character an air of sinister mystery. And though he doesn't know all of Mike's secrets, he says he knows enough. "I have to admit that it's just curiosity that I want to know more [of the storyline]," he says, laughing. "I don't need to know it. As long as you know where you're trying to get in the scene, what your intention is and who you're talking to and [what] your relationship [is], you really don't have to know what happens in Episode 15. It'd be nice, I'd love to, but it's really not necessary. [Housewives creator] Marc [Cherry] is great about making sure we're comfortable."
Long before he shared the small screen with scheming domestic divas, Denton was involved in community theatre in and around his hometown of Goodlettsville, Tenn., just outside of Nashville. His enthusiasm for the stage proved contagious. His father ended up building sets and props for that fateful production of Our Town and found himself similarly smitten with theatre. "He died not long after that -- I guess he was into [acting] about four or five years -- but he kind of found himself," remembers Denton. "He was a dentist and very introverted, and it was a really great thing for us to share in the last few years of his life, community theatre. Before he passed away I was back in my hometown at the bank, and the [teller] saw my name. She said, 'Oh, you're the son of the actor,' and I said, 'No, actually, I'm the actor.' She said, 'Oh, no, I just saw your father in Arsenic and Old Lace at Lakewood Theatre, and he was brilliant.' It was really fun for me that suddenly he was the actor."
Denton bounced around from show to show in the community before deciding to roll the dice and quit his well-paying advertising job to move to Chicago and try his hand at theatre. Shortly after arriving there, the actor landed his first role in A Streetcar Named Desire. "I had no idea what I was doing," he says. "I'm so glad that I didn't, because I would have been terrified. They hired me to play Stanley in this big 200-seat theatre in Chicago. I was so out of my league, but [I] survived it and went on from there."
Denton appeared in 16 plays during his five years in Chicago. "[It] was really necessary for me," he says. "I didn't go into any of the graduate schools for drama -- in fact, I've never even been in an [acting] classroom of any kind. It was a great crash course, trial-by-fire time for me."
The actor eventually caught the eye of a friend of manager John Crosby. "He called me out of the blue and left me a message, 'Hi, I'm a manager from Los Angeles,' and I thought it was bogus. I didn't even call him back," says Denton. Luckily, Crosby was persistent. He called Denton again and had the actor put himself on tape for a sitcom Paramount was doing for CBS. Paramount bit, and before the actor had time to contemplate a move from chilly Chicago to sunny Los Angeles, Denton was on his way out to test for the pilot. "When I was flown out here, John, who became my manager, was able to say, 'Hey, he's just here for the weekend, Paramount flew him out, you've got to meet him while he's here.' Kind of an illusion of importance that was completely false," says Denton, laughing. "But you know how it is in this town. That made such a difference, because people were, like, 'Oh, he's only here for the weekend, they flew him out, gotta see him while he's here!' Little did they know: I was living in a $300 studio in Chicago, making $15,000 a year."
Denton relocated to L.A. and has worked steadily ever since in movies (Face/Off, Primary Colors), television, and theatre. One of his breakout roles was as the twisted Mr. Lyle in the cult sci-fi series The Pretender. During the show's run, Denton was also cast in the play In Walked Monk as Steven, "an Everyman, Tom Hanks kind of role." The actor spent several weeks morphing from sociopathic villain to nice guy every 24 hours. "It's an actor's dream come true, really," he says. "I was in heaven for a while there, because I just got to do such contrasting things. And theatre's so great, because you get to do the whole character arc every night."
Denton says Mr. Lyle's trademark costumes and sinister nature made getting back into character fairly easy. " There was a thing about Mr. Lyle: He wore very expensive suits and very slick clothes, and the character didn't have a thumb. He had crossed the Japanese mafia, and they had cut his thumb off. Once I put on the suit, put on the thumb-less glove, it was easy to slip into," he says. "He was kind of slimy and obnoxious, and it was such a fun character to play. After doing it for three years, I got to a point where I could slip into Mr. Lyle pretty quickly. That was much easier than the play; [it] was tougher to shift gears. It's much easier to be unlikeable than to sell yourself as likeable."
Prior to landing on Housewives, Denton starred in series such as Philly and last season's Threat Matrix, both of which were cancelled despite promising starts. This can be a frustrating situation for an actor, but Denton says it's important to develop a thick skin. "My only advice would be, don't take it personally. It's the same advice that you apply to everything in this business," he says. "There are so many influences that cause a show to succeed or fail."
And as far as succeeding as an actor in general, Denton says there's no pat answer. "I have gotten jobs in every way imaginable, and I have lost them in every way imaginable. I've lost jobs because I looked too much like the producer's ex-husband. I've also gotten jobs that I was a long shot for, like That Old Feeling, the Bette Midler movie. I had no business getting that job, but I walked into the audition, and [director] Carl Reiner said I reminded him of Dick Van Dyke. He insisted they hire me, even though the studio was determined to get a name." When it comes down to it, he says, just remember to follow your gut. "The path has been completely different for all my friends who are successful. Everyone has a different way they arrived at it."
Denton Adapts to Being Object of Desire
By his own admission, James Denton is not comfortable with being referred to as "the hunk" of ABC's much-talked-about new season show "Desperate Housewives,"
"I had mixed emotions about that. When you're described as 'the hunky plumber,' or 'the desirable single guy,' you know there will be women who turn on the show and say, 'What's the big deal?' Anyone who knows me - that's not me," he laughs. "I'm much more comfortable being the bad guy or the guy in trouble."
On the other hand, Denton's willingness to assume the persona of hunky "widower" Mike Delfino has put him in a position lots of men might envy - as he who is fought over by Teri Hatcher and Nicollette Sheridan. How bad could that be?
Besides, as anyone familiar with "Desperate Housewives" knows, things are not as they appear at the outset of the saga about a particular neighborhood, where they're still coming to grips with the recent suicide of the wife (Brenda Strong) who acts as our guide. And that includes the fact that the hunk is not just any old hunk.
Beyond the sex, comedy and soap of "Desperate Housewives," there's a genuine mystery for viewers to solve.
"They're obviously not telling you something," says Denton. "But it's not revealing much to say my character isn't really a plumber. The viewers are in on that from the first episode. Only the other characters think he's a plumber. The viewers can wonder who he's after, who he's spying on, why he chose this neighborhood. He's really closely connected to the big storyline - what's buried in the pool. In this show, all the stories are interwoven in a really fun way. There are no hokey misdirects or reveals where you roll your eyes and think, 'This twist is really contrived. In this show, all the secrets are really smart," he says.
In real life, Nashville born-and-bred Denton is married to beautiful transplanted New York actress Erin O'Brien, who now works as a personal trainer - when she's not busy tending their one-year-old son.
Growing up in Nashville, Denton not only never pictured himself as a TV hunk when he was growing up - he didn't conceive of being an actor at all.
"Acting's not really an option in Tennessee," says the University of Tennessee at Knoxville honors grad, who attended the college on a basketball scholarship. "I was a late starter." After graduating, "I had a suit and tie and briefcase life - and an ulcer - for five years. I sold ad time for CBS affiliates," he recalls. "Then I started doing community theater, and someone talked me into doing a little play, and it changed my life. I turned in my notice and went to Chicago."
Denton started getting work in Chicago quickly - in plays from Tennessee Williams to Bertolt Brecht, in industrial films and on local commercials - and he was happy. He didn't particularly plan to get rich and famous, just live the life he loved, as an actor. However, destiny intervened. An audience member at one of Denton's plays told Los Angeles-based manager John Crosby, whose client list includes the likes of Renee Russo and John Hurt, about an exciting young acting find.
"When he first called, I thought it was bogus and didn't even call him back," says Denton.
One thing led to another, however, and despite Hollywood horror stories from Chicago actor pals, Denton wound up in L.A. with Crosby sending him out on auditions. Since then, he's been seen as a favorite TV psychopathic bad guy (Mr. Lyle in "The Pretender"), as an American intelligence agent fighting terrorists (on "Threat Matrix") and as a funny guy (Daryl on several episodes of "The Drew Carey Show.") His feature credits include "Primary Colors" and "Face/Off."
With "Desperate Housewives, he's getting the chance to play drama and comedy all at once. Now, if people will just watch.
"Everyone who's seen it says it's very, very good - very different and funny," he notes. "But then, last year 'Karen Sisco' was really well-received and nobody turned it on. You can never guess what people are going to do."
Whatever the fate of "Desperate Housewives," it's safe to say that you can expect to see James Denton on screens - small and big - for a long time to come.
WILL THEY OR WON'T THEY?
A cold rain is falling on Wisteria Lane, but inside Teri Hatcher's trailer, things couldn't get much hotter.
"You're dying to see what's underneath my robe, aren't you?" the actress says to James Denton, her hunky Desperate Housewives costar.
Denton smiles and makes a play of averting his eyes. He's a married man with a child, after all. Even so, it's tough for him not to notice Hatcher's 5-inch, metallic-blue heels.
"Well, you'll have to wait," Hatcher says. It turns out Hatcher isn't really trying to seduce him — she's just skittish about showing off the lingerie she's wearing for an upcoming scene. Denton can relate. "Hey, listen," he says, "I'm just praying they won't make me do one of those Bochco-style butt shots."
It's probably only a matter of time. The romance Hatcher and Denton have brought to prime time on ABC's Desperate Housewives packs the sort of pent-up passion that inevitably brings out the fuzzy-focus lenses and flesh-colored body tape (the secret behind Hatcher's hilarious streaking scene in Episode 3). As sexy single mom Susan Mayer and her neighbor Mike Delfino, Hatcher and Denton have one of the most intriguing relationships on TV. Just ask America. Every Sunday night, nearly 25 million viewers tune in to see whether the fiasco-prone divorcée and the studly plumber will get it on, break it off or perhaps get swept into yet another agonizing love triangle. Above all, people want to know what's up with Mike's deep, dark secret.
"I'm as curious as anyone to know where this relationship is going and who this guy really is," Hatcher says. "Then again, I'm glad [the producers and writers] aren't telling me. What would be the fun in that?"
Meanwhile, Denton, who knows but won't say what his character is really up to, is doing everything possible to maintain Mike's devilish blend of mystery and aw-shucks affability. And for good reason. The 41-year-old actor is enjoying his first major success, a huge relief after witnessing the demise of two previous ABC drama series, Threat Matrix (2003) and Philly (2001), each of which fizzled after just one season. This time, Denton's not taking any chances. "Whenever Teri and I have a big make-out scene," he says, "I shave really closely so I won't scratch up her face."
Hatcher, who will turn 40 next month, is no stranger to taking it on the chin. Her most prominent role after Lois & Clark got canceled seven years ago was hawking electronic gizmos for Radio Shack. She's so desperate to make Housewives a hit that she kept filming scenes even after breaking two ribs in an episode in which Susan falls into a wedding cake. "We had to do this kissing scene in a truck afterward," she says. "I couldn't really turn my body, and Jamie kept saying, 'Is everything OK?'"
In person, Hatcher and Denton are an agreeably mismatched duo. She's the consummate diva, constantly teasing her hair and checking herself out in the mirror. Hatcher has been divorced twice, most recently from actor Jon Tenney, with whom she has a 7-year-old daughter, Emerson. When asked whether she's currently seeing anyone, Hatcher laughs and says, "Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing on that front." Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry explains: "Teri's constantly telling me the most horrendous stories about her miserable attempts to date. In many ways, like Susan, she epitomizes that woman of a certain age who's getting older and is hungry to find a guy before it's too late."
Denton, on the other hand, is the archetypal family man. He's married to Erin O'Brien Denton, a personal fitness trainer, and is the father of a 19-month-old son, Sheppard. The gregarious Nashville-born actor comes from the low-maintenance school of good looks and thinks it's hilarious he's suddenly TV's hottest hunk. "When I got that first script and saw 'Mike glistens bare-chested in the front yard,' I almost did a spit take," he says. "I was literally sitting on my couch eating pizza and drinking beer at the time. I thought, 'Man, I better do some sit-ups — fast.'"