Ex-'Desperate Housewives' Star Josh Henderson Uses the Internet to Try to Save His Character

On Sunday nights millions of smitten young women had a standing date with "Desperate Housewives" resident hunk Austin McCann. But on March 3 the romance ended when the character drove down Wisteria Lane on his motorcycle one last time and off the ABC hit show. The bad boy of Fairview didn't exactly leave on good terms, potentially impregnating one girl while cheating on another.

But for Josh Henderson, the real small-town boy who plays Austin, life couldn't be better.

The 25-year-old who went from Tulsa to Tinsletown is living out the Hollywood dream. Producers have come knocking with hot scripts and it doesn't hurt that he's rumored to be dating Paris Hilton. The pair has been spotted all over town and in cozy tabloid pics and the blogs are on fire about the good-looking duo.

Henderson has broken a lot of hearts with the Hilton rumors and his departure from "Desperate Housewives." But in an exclusive interview with ABC News, Henderson explains, "It was sad to leave the show, but I don't believe 'Desperate Housewives' fans have seen the last of me."

And it's his die-hard fans that have taken matters into their own hands, creating a "Save Austin" petition. Thousands of online signatures have been sent to the producers of the show.

The petition is linked to Henderson's MySpace page. The star currently has 4,200 friends on the site; the majority are strangers hoping to connect with the heartthrob. Recently the actor had 700 friend requests in one day.

The petition, reads,"Yo!! Everyone help and support. This is to help my character on the show. Please check out link and sign if u will. Thanks so much for all the support! God Bless- Josh"

Hundreds of comments can be found on the site from fans like Terusha who wrote, "I signed it !!! I hope Austin stays :-)." Screen name Desperate Teenager said, "Oh the Austin/Julie storyline is just toooo good for this show!" and the DSC professed, "South Florida loves us some Joshie......U aint leavin yet! The show would be nothing without you on there."

MySpace is an outlet the actor is using to drum up support and connect to his fans by diligently responding to each and every one. Henderson told ABC News, "I spend up to two hours a day on correspondence. Hearing from fans on the Internet and being able to directly respond to the fan base is exciting. You can cut out the middle man like the fan club…before a recent appearance in Tyler, Texas, I had fans reaching out on MySpace offering their lake house, Mavericks tickets. It was amazing."

The support means a great deal to Henderson who said, "Hollywood is a fast-paced, competitive world. Times have changed since 2002 when I won a spot in the group 'Pop Stars.' Back in the day we would get fan letters in the mail, now you can find anyone and contact people. It's incredible how fans can have a personal connection, share photos, stories."

These days, MySpace pages are pretty much a staple in Hollywood for up and coming stars like "Laguna Beach's" Kristin Cavallari or Billy Joel's daughter, aspiring musician Alexa Ray. But even bigger names like Jada Pinkett Smith and Paris Hilton personally tend to their pages.

Us Weekly deputy editor Caroline Schaefer told ABC News, "Both stars and their fans are online all the time. They use it to shop, learn and communicate so it makes sense that celebrities would move to the Internet as a medium to communicate with their fans and solicit support from them."

Schaffer said, "Stars who use the Internet are the savviest because their messages go straight from their hearts to their fans, without the filtering that's often done by publicists, agents or studios."

Many celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell break news on their Web sites and help fans connect during times of crisis. Britney Spears announced she was pregnant for the first time on her Web site and is now highlighting well wishes from fans reaching out during her "rough patch."

Alexa Ray recently lashed out on her MySpace page after she said gossiper Perez Hilton shared some unkind words about her looks. Ray wrote, "I can't help but be a little bummed out ... because Perez Hilton ... just put up a horrible picture of me on his site and basically in so many words called me ugly ... Oh well, I guess that's a part of the crap that comes with the industry."

While fans love the personal connection, Schaefer said don't believe everything you read online. "Of course fans need to be aware some celebrity MySpace pages are counterfeit. There was recently a MySpace page created by someone pretending to be Brad Pitt but upon close scrutiny it was clear it was an imposter."

As for Henderson, he isn't alone in trying to revive a show or a character via MySpace. You can find a Save "Friday Night Lights" petition and a Save "The OC" petition, two recently canceled shows. "I believe the more the people speak the more the producers will listen. You never know, I think it can only help," Henderson said.

Schaffer agrees. "The Internet has already shown how powerful it can be in both swaying fans and networks. Most recently, we saw how one Web site, votefortheworst.com, helped bolster support and votes to keep Sanjaya Malakar on 'American Idol' ... the networks certainly seem to be paying attention."

As for whether Henderson is going strong with Hilton, his MySpace page still reads "single." But he won't discuss his personal life.

Is a return to Wisteria Lane in the cards? Representatives from "Desperate Housewives" wouldn't comment either, but Henderson has his own thoughts. "I had a blast on the show, I don't think Austin is finished, fingers crossed."

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