Highly doubtful that James Denton will be asked to repair toilets at St. Paul’s Park Square Theatre during his run in “Good People,” when ends Oct. 6.
He could handle it. Denton told me that his time as hunky plumber Mike Delfino on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” was a full circle moment in his acting career.
“One of my jobs in Chicago when I was in a theater company — you have do everything in the building — I was the guy who handled plumbing problems,” Denton said. “That was the funniest thing. I was 30 years old and working for nothing, cleaning toilets and urinals to get on stage in Chicago, and 10 years later was on the Number 1 TV show in the world playing a plumber.”
Denton is one of the nicest actors I’ve met, perhaps because he seems to be allergic to taking credit. We were talking about his “Good People” co-star Virginia Burke. He said, “She’s had so many shows and everybody loves her. The Park Square audience is used to seeing Virginia, so it’s fun to be working with her because it helps me out. I can kind of glom onto her popularity and she’s fantastic.”
Denton was equally self-effacing when talking about the success of wildly popular “Desperate Housewives,” which kind of became a soap opera within a prime-time soap. He’s such a straight-shooter it’s difficult to imagine him tap dancing around questions, but there might have been some verbal dance moves when asked why co-stars seemed to hate Teri Hatcher.
In “Good People,” with the help of “this fantastic voice and dialect coach, Lucinda Holshue,” Denton said he was reminded to project the Boston accent of his character and not speak for a TV sound stage.
Denton is enjoying his Twin Cities stage debut. Of the stage, he says, “If you’re good you can be proud, and if you’re lousy it’s your fault. You can’t blame it on editors and producers. Another frustrating thing about being on camera is you’re at everyone else’s mercy. [The stage is] much more rewarding as an actor than any other venue.”
Offstage, Denton, who describes himself as “almost semi-retired,” seems eternally affable, and not the least bit put off when he meets a fan on the street, as you can see on my startribune.com/video. Denton and his Minnesota-raised actor-and-fitness expert-wife Erin O’Brien moved back here to raise their kids close to relatives.
They’ve opened a suburban fitness center. True to Denton’s low-key style, he’s not on Facebook or Twitter, and he forgot to tell me the name of the “gym,” as he calls CrossFit Chanhassen/Bring It Studios.
Q You just flushed the toilet and the water is rising. You can’t tell whether it’s going to stop or overflow. What is the remedy to the situation?
A Bail fast. Find a bucket you can throw out later.
Q Aren’t you supposed to turn off the water?
A Oh, at the bottom. Oh, look at that! [Hitting himself in the head.] What a plumber I am. Turn the water off.
Q Everybody talks about how nice you are. What’s the problem with people in Hollywood being nice?