James Denton plays Mike Delfino in the hit ABC show, Desperate Housewives. With the season five DVD about to be released, the actor talks about his life in front of the camera, his thoughts on the show and some secrets from the set of season five…
What did you think when you first discovered the storyline leaps forward five years at the start of season five?
JAMES DENTON: I wasn’t crazy about the idea in the beginning because I thought people would see it as a gimmick. I thought the viewers might feel like they were being manipulated, but I should have known to trust [Desperate Housewives creator] Marc Cherry because it’s worked brilliantly. The audience loved it and all of my friends who watch the show or people who come up to me in the street really like it.
What happens in season five?
JAMES DENTON: This is why it was really smart on Marc’s part because we get to jump forward. For example, we get to see that Gabriella has become frumpy. She gained two pounds and quit wearing makeup. She’s a dog. She’s really ugly now. I can’t even look at her. I’m joking, of course, but you get to jump right into that point in her life where she has had kids and she is a completely different person. It was fun for the audience to see Gabriella after the time leap and there were fun storylines for the rest of the cast, too. Marcia’s character has become a celebrity, so we see all of the problems that come along with that without having to watch the journey, which can be boring. I think the whole idea of jumping forward five years was very smart.
Susan Mayer [played by Teri Hatcher] and Mike Delfino seem to be going their separate ways in season five. Is it nice to get a new love interest in Katherine Mayfair?
JAMES DENTON: I like it in that I love Dana Delany [who plays Katherine]. She is really fun to work with and we have a great time together on set. But I don’t like it because I think the audience wants to see Mike and Susan together. A lot of people come up to me and say, “When are you going to get back with Susan? I don’t like you and Katherine.”
Do you think it’s inevitable that Susan and Mike end up together?
JAMES DENTON: I think so. I hope so. I love working with Teri. For four years, nearly every single scene of mine was with Teri and we had a blast. It’s fun getting to know Dana and we have become really good friends, but it’s not much fun when the public starts to complain. They love the show, but they just want Mike and Susan together. It’s another one of those detours for Mike and Susan – and it’s provided some really great storylines. For example, our little boy is torn. He really likes Katherine. He likes to go to her house and eat because she is a better cook, but Susan hates that.
So when will Mike and Susan get back together?
JAMES DENTON: Who knows? That’s a question for [Desperate Housewives creator] Marc Cherry because he changes it up all the time. Kyle MacLachlan was only supposed to be here for one year. His character was supposed to go to jail for killing that girl, but suddenly he’s a fixture. Dana Delany was supposed be here for one year, but hopefully she’s going to be here for the rest of the show. People get unexpectedly killed off, so you never know where you stand. I know the plan was for Mike and Susan to have a relationship similar to Sam and Diane from Cheers. You want them to be together, but they never are. We’ll have to see what happens.
Mike Delfino is a plumber… Are you any good at plumbing in real life?
JAMES DENTON: Yes, I can do plumbing, although I’m not good enough to do it for a living. You know what? I’m just a blue-collar guy with a dog and a pickup truck. When I got the script, I laughed because I was going to play myself at work – and then I found out he had drug issues and he killed a cop. He is a little more interesting than I am.
What have you learned about yourself after being on the show for five years?
JAMES DENTON: That’s a great question. If I was younger, I think the show would have had a bigger impact on my life, but at my age things really didn’t change much. We live a quiet, normal life and we don’t do any of the Hollywood stuff. I have two kids, so I don’t need to be at The Viper Room at two in the morning.
Have you changed at all?
JAMES DENTON: I don’t think so. I still drive the same pickup truck I had when I started the show. We have moved homes, but that’s because we had another baby and we didn’t have enough room.
Is it tough to go to work where there are loads of rumors flying around about backstage dramas and catfights?
JAMES DENTON: It’s not bad because I’m always honest. When we had a conflict in the first season, reporters found out that I would tell them what’s going on, so I had a lot of attention. But that was only because there is no reason to hide the conflict. It was never anything personal. The conflict was between publicists and managers more than it was between the actors and actresses. People wanted to make the most of the opportunity. The show was going to be a huge hit and it mattered who wore what in pictures and who was positioned where on the magazine covers. The positioning was worth millions of dollars to people who were going to sign big contracts with other companies, so it was very important.
Did you see any fighting?
JAMES DENTON: I never saw any animosity or catfights. I can honestly say that everybody gets along really well here now. Everybody is very professional. I’ve been really impressed how we don’t have people on the cast who you have to avoid or bad combinations of people that you don’t want to get into the van with. Everybody is doing great.
Do you enjoy working with the new kids brought in this season?
JAMES DENTON: I rarely work with them. In fact, I rarely used to work with anyone but Teri. I had my first scene with Marcia Cross in season four – and I think I had one scene with Eva until we started to work more together this year. I just don’t cross paths with other characters.
Do you watch the show at home?
JAMES DENTON: Oh, yeah. I watch it on TV. My son is five and he watches the show a little bit because the content goes over his head. We really don’t have any sex on our show. We should, but we don’t. People talk about it being sort of salacious – but we don’t really show much. In the past, there was Eva Longoria and Jesse McCartney in season one, but that’s about it. So I let him watch it in pieces because he gets a kick out of seeing me on TV.
How does he react when he watches the show?
JAMES DENTON: He doesn’t know that everybody’s dad doesn’t do this for a living. However, the other day we were watching a scene with Mike, Susan and M.J. – and my son stared at the screen and asked, “Dad, does that little boy know you have your own little boy at home? Does he know he’s not your real little boy?” I said, “He knows.” How cute is that. Isn’t it funny? He’s just figuring out the acting thing because at first he would see Teri and me kissing and he would laugh about it. But now he’s almost six and he’s really, really smart. He’s becoming wiser. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him because he’s going to be a handful. He’s reading and he’s on the third Harry Potter book at five years old. He has never shown any interest in acting, though. He came to work with me one time and he was bored, so I’m happy about that.
Would you let him act?
JAMES DENTON: Probably. Actually, I’m not sure. You’ve got to be a special kid to act because you’ve got to have a really thick skin. That’s the only reason I succeeded. I was in advertising for a long time and I was a sales man. It’s hard to offend me – but I can’t imagine putting your kid through that rejection.
Desperate Housewives: Season 5 is out on DVD from Monday 9th November