James Denton (third from right) and Band From TV following a performance at Harry Caray's Tavern, Navy Pier
When you meet James “Jamie” Denton for the first time, it is hard to place his accent. “I grew up in Tennessee,” he says. “But when I started acting I came [to Chicago] to do theater because it had such a good reputation.”
Denton stayed in Chicago, doing 16 plays in five years before his career took off and he headed to Los Angeles. “If you’re willing to work for free or cheap, there’s more theater in Chicago than there is anywhere in the world,” he admits. It all started with a part as Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, and eventually led to the role he would be best known for: Mike Delfino, the hunky husband of Susan (played by Teri Hatcher) on Desperate Housewives.
Denton’s character on the show is a plumber, but the actor isn't tasked with any heavy lifting at Harry Caray’s Tavern, where he is a partner at the Navy Pier location. He was once a waiter at the chain’s original restaurant on Kinsey Street, and is now preparing to spend more time in Chicago (and at the eatery) as Desperate Housewives wraps its eighth and final season.
Making His Mark
One of the ways Denton has made his presence known at Harry Caray’s is with a cocktail named after his character. “It’s my very own,” he says. “They first made a Delfino without consulting me and it was really girly. You might as well have put an umbrella in it! It had a bunch of fruit. So we re-did it with Gentleman Jack [whiskey] because I’m a Tennessee redneck.”
Denton has also used his position to bring his friends around for a good cause. As a guitarist in the charitably oriented group Band From TV—comprised of Hollywood celebrities including Hugh Laurie (House), Greg Grunberg (Love Bites) and Adrian Pascar (Heroes)—he has performed to raise money for the actors’ favorite charities. (Denton focuses on The Conservation Fund.)
One thing we may not be seeing the actor do in the Windy City is performing on stage. “I've been able to do a couple of plays during the run of Housewives, but it’s very difficult,” he explains. “I need to get back up on stage and remember how to act. It would have to be in Los Angeles though, because you can’t get me away from my kids for long.”
On the culinary front, Denton is looking forward to doing something he hasn’t been able to do in eight years: sample sweets. “It’s so off limits for me with my job—I have no idea when I’m going to have to take my shirt off in front of 20 million people,” he says. “When Housewives is over, I’ll have the dessert menu memorized!”