Just short of the series finale, Mike Delfino died a sudden death, but the man who played him is at peace

Don’t cry for James Denton. Sure, his Desperate Housewives character, Mike Delfino, met a shocking demise in the show’s March 11 episode — and the news did leak out early, via testimony in the Nicollette Sheridan wrongful termination trial in L.A. — but the actor sees the sexy plumber’s offing as a good thing. ”Delfino gets this really big exit, and I’m free for pilot season,” a smiling Denton tells EW. ”It’s the best gift I could have gotten.”

When Marc Cherry, creator of the ABC dramedy, pulled aside Denton, 49, last December to tell him of the plot twist, ”I was biting the inside of my cheek trying not to crack up,” the actor says. ”It’s fantastic for me.” After worrying for seven seasons, Denton figured that his character was finally in the clear since he’d made it to the show’s final season. ”That was the first time Marc has ever given me the ‘we need to talk’ line,” Denton says, ”and I didn’t think it was me getting killed.”

Denton’s biggest concern with his character’s death, in fact, wasn’t even himself — he was most worried about how onscreen wife Teri Hatcher, who plays Housewife Susan, would react. ”I asked them to let me tell her,” he says. ”Her immediate reaction was she got teared up and she said, ‘You know what? I realize this is good for you, so I’m okay with it.’ It does suck for Teri. It’s going to be hard for her to play any comedy for the last six episodes.”

The manner in which Delfino met his maker — shot in cold blood by a loan shark on the front porch of his house — was ”brilliant,” Denton says. ”I remember lying on the threshold with the blood pouring out of me, looking up at the top of the porch. I’ve been there for over eight years, and I’ve done so many scenes on that porch,” he continues. ”As an actor, you just hope people care.”

For her part, Hatcher was unhappy with the story line. ”I’ve got to be honest, I think it was a bad idea,” Hatcher tells EW. ”It’s sad to me that Susan — who started the series as a single, unloved mother — ends now in the same way.”

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