Courtesy Crown Media Family Networks
August 09, 2014 01:55 PM

When Desperate Housewives ended its eight-year run in 2012, James Denton decided to make a radical life change.

“I wanted to get my kids out of L.A.,” he tells PEOPLE. “So we moved to Minnesota right away. I’ve also got a house in rural Montana, which is our escape from Minnesota!”

“Our main house is in Minneapolis because my wife [Erin]’s family is there,” the actor, 51, continues. “And whenever we can, we head to the middle of nowhere in Montana; we live in a small town. It’s quiet and peaceful, ideal for really connecting with my family. It was definitely the right decision for us. I only have one chance to be a good dad to them.”

“Just being able to be present for them is a huge blessing,” Denton, who is father to son Sheppard, 11, and daughter Malin, 9, tells PEOPLE.

“It means so much to them when I’m around. It makes them more relaxed and confident to have their parents as active participants in their lives. It’s a real luxury for me to be with them. They won’t always want Dad around as they get older, but for now, they do. I want to make the most of it.”

But even in rural Montana, Denton is still approached by fans. “I went to the DMV this morning,” he says with a laugh, “and the woman who was helping me was talking about how much she misses Desperate Housewives. It was flattering.”

A Selective EyeAnd he’s not done acting quite yet. Denton, who was a perennial in PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue during the run of Desperate Housewives, continues to field job offers. “I can afford to be a little more choosy,” he explains.

“Obviously, Desperate Housewives was for a more adult audience, but my last few projects have been a lot more family-friendly. I did Grace Unplugged, which was an unapologetic faith-based movie. And I’m working on a kids’ movie now. I’ve done three or four projects in a row that I’m happy having my kids see.”

His newest project is Stranded in Paradise, a Hallmark Channel original movie airing Saturday at 9 p.m.

“It’s a very nice, sweet romantic comedy. I costar with Vanessa Marcil, and we get stuck in a hurricane. I loved the script – and the fact that we’d be filming in Puerto Rico. And, again, it’s a friendly movie that I can watch with my kids. There’s a lot to be said about that.”

Vanessa Marcil and James Denton costar in Stranded in Paradise
Courtesy Crown Media Family Networks

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