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James Denton thought his son was ready to watch him die. When Sheppard was 8, dad decided to show him the scene from "Desperate Housewives" where his character, handyman Mike Delfino, was shot in the heart by a vengeful loan shark.

"I thought he was old enough to think it was cool," said the actor, nibbling at a breakfast sandwich earlier this month outside a Caribou Coffee near his Chanhassen house. "It traumatized him. He bawled. Father of the year, letting him watch that."

The experience didn't dissuade Sheppard from following in dad's footsteps, if only in a gingerly fashion.

The two appear together in "Perfect Harmony," a feel-good movie capitalizing on the older Denton's record as one of Hallmark's most popular male stars.

Premiering Sunday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it features the 59-year-old actor as a former rock star trying to make a comeback in both the music world and in his love life.

Sheppard, who plays his protective son, is a natural, proving quickly that he didn't just get the gig because dad was the executive producer.

"It's always weird to be doing this thing you've been seeing him do your entire life," said the 19-year-old, joining his father on the Caribou patio during a weekend break from his freshman year at Tennessee's Sewanee: University of the South. "Now I'm here in front of the camera, so it's easy to get into your head and be nervous. But all the people he hired were great. He gave me good notes when he had to."

Sheppard benefited from a certain amount of home schooling. Watching classic films like "Goodfellas" and "Dazed and Confused" was often accompanied with play-by-play commentary from both dad and mom, Erin O'Brien, a former actor turned fitness expert.

There were also unique opportunities, like getting to meet Barack Obama at a fundraiser thrown by "Housewives" star Eva Longoria.

"It was always cool," Sheppard said about his father's fame. "It never bugged me."

But the teenager wasn't pining to be in the spotlight himself.

Shortly after "Housewives" went off the air in 2012, the Dentons moved to the Twin Cities to be closer to Erin's family and so Sheppard and his younger sister, Malin, could get a better education.

Sheppard, a self-described introvert, had a hard time making friends. It didn't help that dad was spending much of the weekday shooting in Canada. His parents convinced him that doing theater might help get him out of his shell.

"It was a way for him to have an elaborate play date," Denton said.

Sheppard enjoyed doing school musicals and the chance to briefly act with his dad in the 2016 Hallmark movie "For Love & Honor."

But the audition process and pressure got to him. He quit acting his sophomore year at Minnetonka High School and focused on playing guitar.

Sheppard returned to acting, at least temporarily, for "Harmony," which was shot in Winnipeg this summer.

"It was easily the best experience of my career and also a lot of biting your tongue," said Denton, who also had the opportunity to show off his musical chops, something he hasn't done since being a key member of Band From TV, the one-time all-star group that also featured Hugh Laurie and Jesse Spencer. "You forget the things you take for granted after doing 400 episodes of television, like hitting your mark and staying out of the other person's light. Watching Sheppard absorb all that for the first time was pretty impressive. But when it came to acting tips, I stayed completely out of it."

Sheppard said he enjoyed the experience but he's more keen on becoming a therapist and honing his skills as a musician. He has a cabin cluttered with instruments not far from his Tennessee campus.

"I'd love to do acting as a hobby," said Sheppard, sporting a necklace with a miniature guitar, a gift from Malin, who just secured the plum role of Donna in an upcoming Chanhassen High School production of "Mamma Mia!" "I've seen how rigorous and arbitrary the audition process is. I don't know if my mind is built for that."

As for the older Denton, he's not sure what's next. His seven-season run on Hallmark's "The Good Witch," one of the most popular basic cable series of the past decade, wrapped up last year. So has his contract to make Hallmark movies.

He's open to doing a series with his "Housewives" love interest, Teri Hatcher, whom he has reunited with for both the 2021 TV film "A Kiss Before Christmas" and a recent episode of the "Fantasy Island" reboot. He also admits that he's fantasized about doing a production at nearby Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

"My picture is still on the wall at the local Potbelly, so I think that's a good sign," he said. "Every time I go in, I'm afraid it's going to be gone."

"Perfect Harmony"

When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries