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James Denton: Interview With Mike Delfino From Desperate Housewives

If you were a fan of Desperate Housewives, then we’ve got a treat for you. James Denton talks with Your Teen about acting, raising adolescents, and picking roles after the ABC comedy-drama.

Actor James Denton from Desperate Housewives

Q: Were you into acting as a teenager?

Denton: When I was growing up, I was kind of a jock—a basketball player. And then I realized that I wasn’t that great, and I wasn’t going to make any money as an athlete. So I did sales for six years and stumbled into acting after college when a friend suggested I join a community theater.

Q: How does it feel to play the parent of a teenager in the Hallmark Series The Good Witch

Denton: It’s funny. You kind of avoid playing parents for as long as you can; once you start playing a dad, then you’re playing a dad for the rest of your life. My television son, Nick, is a teenager whose 15 and always bucking authority. We’re in a tough stage in our relationship. That’s not the case with my children, who are polite and kind and just a lot of fun.

Q: You’re raising your children in Minneapolis. Why?

Denton: My wife is from Minneapolis, and all her family is there. We decided being with family would be better for our kids, and it really has been. They are growing up with cousins and grandparents.

Q: What’s it like commuting back and forth to Canada for filming The Good Witch?

Denton: I go home every weekend, which makes this doable. I couldn’t come up here for four months and not go home every weekend. That’s not the way we want to raise our children. I want to be around as much as I can.

Q: Do your children (ages 9 and 11) enjoy acting?

Denton: My son loves it. He’s really talented. My wife has a master’s degree in acting from New York University. She’s a much better actor than I am. She’s a singer, and my son inherited that. He’s got a fantastic voice. He is shy, so we sort of forced him to audition for a musical in middle school. He was the new kid in school, and we thought it might put him on the map. It did, and he loves it. I don’t know if my daughter will get the bug or not. She also has a great voice, but she doesn’t know it yet.

Q: Will you let your son act professionally?

Denton: We’ll have to see what he wants as he gets older, but we certainly won’t encourage any kind of professional acting until he’s an adult.

Q: What’s worked for you as a parent?

Denton: My wife and I never, ever contradict each other. We always form a united front no matter what, and then we work it out later. When you start contradicting each other in front of the kids, there’s no coming back. They can see the weakness. They know they can play you against each other. I also pick my battles. I rarely raise my voice, so when I do, it gets their attention. I think that helps. I try really, really hard not to fight the petty battles. When you feel like it’s important, make sure they hear you. That comes from my dad. My dad almost never yelled. So, when he did, it was effective.

Q: Are there other areas in which you find yourself emulating your parents?

Denton: We’re certainly trying to use the stuff that we think was good, but in the 60s and 70s, there was a distance between parents and kids.

Even our mothers, who were very loving, still had sort of a distance. You don’t want to be your kid’s best friend, but showing them some vulnerability gains their trust. You have to be able to tell them you love them. My dad never told me he loved me. Never. My mom didn’t until we were grown and out of the house. We don’t hesitate at our house to tell each other how we feel.
Q: A lot of parents grapple with technology. What works for you?

Denton: We’re pretty hard lined on video games. No games at all. I know that’s tough, but they play them at their friends’ houses. It can really take over, and instead of trying to block out time for it, we said, “We’re not going to do video games at home, but you can play them at your friends’ houses.”

Q: How about cell phones?

Denton: There’s one phone that they share at the house. If they’re going to a ballgame, or a sleepover, they can take it with them and call us. We’re starting to leave them at home alone during the day, now that they’re 9 and 11. We want to make sure they have a phone there. We don’t have a landline. We’re going as slowly as we can with the technology, which is hard. It’s a great time to raise kids, but technology can make it tough in some ways. So, we’re trying to transition as slowly as we can.

Q: Your recent roles are so different than Desperate Housewives.

Denton: Yes, it’s fun to do work that my kids can actually watch. I did a great movie called, Girl’s Best Friend, about a girl and a dog. My daughter just loved that movie. I loved the people involved with it, and I thought, “You know what? It’s a pretty fun choice.” Recently, for whatever reason, I have done a lot of faith-based, family-oriented films, and it has been a lot of fun. My kids are loving it.

Susan Borison & Kaitlin Coyle

Susan Borison is editor of Your Teen.