James Denton panicked when the new script for the ABC hit Desperate Housewives had him taking his shirt off. The 41-year-old actor wasn't unaware of the plotline involving his character—in which more than one of the women on Wisteria Lane were hot-blooded, lonely, and oh-so-susceptible to the charms of the neighborhood's only tall, rangy bachelor, a mysterious plumber named Mike Delfino—but Denton had assumed that the topless moments would go to the buffed kid who played the gardener. Now he had less than two weeks to turn himself into an object of desire.
Denton devised his own training regime: "Stop eating." For ten days, he sustained life on "Red Man chewing tobacco and Jack Daniel's—and that's no exaggeration." He ran every morning. And he went to the gym every day. "I knew I could bulk up quicker than I could lose weight," he says. "I tried to beef up the top half so the middle would look smaller." The crash course worked—his "six pack" became legend. The ultimate accolade followed a few weeks later, when People magazine featured him in its "Sexiest Man Alive" issue. It's now official: James Denton, hottie. James Denton, hunk.
There is one household, however, where this view is not shared, and that is Denton's own two-bedroom North Hollywood home. He's no sex symbol here. He's "Jamie," a guy who cuts his own lawn, finds fame alternately distasteful and amusing, and thanks his lucky stars that he met Erin O'Brien, an actress who abandoned that difficult career to become a personal trainer, mother, and —truly sorry, ladies— thoroughly contented wife.
The best part about Hollywood clichés is how untrue they are. John Wayne avoided military service in World War II. Marilyn Monroe, the most desired woman in the world, died alone. Rock Hudson was gay. To that list of ironies, add James Denton, the hunk with washboard abs who can't wait to get home every night.
It isn't that he doesn't love acting. He does. But growing up in Nashville, he was not the kid in the drama club who knew the words to all the songs in the musicals. He played sports, graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and started a career in advertising sales. His father, a dentist, acted in community theater; at 23, Denton joined him in a local production of Our Town. Five years later, he quit his job to take a shot at acting full-time. He spent a few years in Chicago, where he scored part after part in plays and practiced serial monogamy: "Living with someone meant you could afford a one-bedroom apartment, so you'd date for a few weeks and say, 'Hey, let's save money and move in together.'"
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