Credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Fans flooded the Internet in protest when news emerged in late 2013 that hunky Charlie Hunnam had pulled out of playing Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey just weeks after he had been cast. Though the E.L. James film adaptation later found its Christian in Jamie Dornan, the Sons of Anarchy star still thinks of his decision as a sensitive subject.

“It was very, very painful for me, that whole process, just very unpleasant,” Hunnam tells EW. “I felt like I let myself down. I let those people down on Fifty Shades that I’d grown to really love and respect. It’s just a really unpleasant period of time for me.”

Hunnam later cited scheduling conflicts for his decision to bow out on the brooding billionaire character, and with good reason: He had just wrapped the sixth and final season of his hit FX series and had already committed to Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming horror flick Crimson Peak. The workload — coupled with some “big personal stuff going on in my life,” Hunnam told EW in 2014 — left the actor stressed and suffering from self-doubt regarding his ability to deliver as Fifty Shades‘ kinky, BDSM-obsessed bachelor.

“For the first time in my life, [I] had more work than I had time to do it. It’s very hard to be disciplined in that situation and understand what is going to be required to all of that work to the best of your ability and have yourself surrounded by people,” Hunnam said in this week’s EW cover story featuring his upcoming turn as the lead in King Arthur. “You see it all the time in Hollywood. There’s a tendency to make hay while the sun shines and to capitalize on every second once somebody gets hot and people just get burnt out. That’s what I started to do.”

But there happens to be a silver lining. Hunnam has moved on, and he’s thrown himself wholeheartedly into bringing some serious smolder to his role in Guy Richie’s retelling of the classic King Arthur story.

“It’s not in my mind very much,” said Hunnam of the Fifty Shades fallout. “I do try not to dwell on the past too much because I have a tendency to do that, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten very good at distancing myself from shoulda, woulda, coulda.”

Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Movie
  • 122 minutes