Gary Gershoff/WireImage
February 02, 2018 at 07:17 PM EST

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure star Alex Winter has spoken about how filming the cult ‘80s movies helped him come to terms with his childhood sexual abuse.

Winter, 52, says he was sexually abused as a child actor “in the 1970s” by a man who is now dead, and that he later suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 in his first broadcast interview about his childhood trauma, the actor – who began his career doing TV commercials and theater in St. Louis, before appearing on Broadway aged 12 – describes the experience of working alongside co-star Keanu Reeves in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure as “seminal” in his recovery from the trauma.

“I came out of film school and I was really beginning to do a lot of this therapy work. A lot of things were really colliding in my head at that time,” Winter told BBC radio presenter Adrian Chiles, Friday.

“For me personally, in terms of the experience, it was an opportunity to just be childlike and play, and innocent and sweet, and it was really, really helpful for me mentally.”

Thanks to the fun and family environment created by the Bill & Ted crew, Winter said he was able to address his trauma for the first time.

“I didn’t realize it, but it was very important,” he added. “I was in a pretty dark place around that time because I had just been going and going and going, and I hadn’t stopped. You know, I just barreled through the rest of those shows [he first appeared on Broadway in a production of The King & I, opposite Yul Brynner], I barreled through college. I just hadn’t really paused and that’s a recipe for disaster if you’re carrying that kind of trauma. So, it was an opportunity to pause and just be someplace safe and sweet and fun and childlike.”

Winter didn’t go public at the time about the alleged abuse, he said, because “there is a power dynamic that does put you in a position where you’re afraid for your own safety. So there’s that, on top of the taboo nature of being public.”

He explained that he had the “lightbulb” moment of coming forward with his story when similar stories began to emerge in Hollywood in recent months. “I was absolutely flummoxed,” Winter said.

Since filming Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its 1991 sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Winter has continued to act, while also working as a producer and director. He’s also set to return the slacker franchise in the recently announced third installment, Bill & Ted Face the Music.

“The idea of revisiting them in middle age is really, there is a sweetness to that,” Winter said. “The world of Bill & Ted is a very sweet and fun place to run around in.”

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