Press/Interview: Charlie Hunnam Talks Changing His Hair and Beard for ‘Shantaram’ : ‘I Like the Man Bun!’

The English actor, 42, may have kept the bun style for his new role, but he isn’t a big fan of wearing his long hair down — Charlie Hunnam may not be the biggest fan of long hair, but his beloved man bun still holds a special place in his heart.

The English actor, 42, opened up to PEOPLE about his most recent look, which came as a result of both the pandemic and as a part of his latest role in Shantaram. As Hunnam explains, he grew his hair out for two years, and decided to film with the look that best represent his character of Lin Ford, an Australian prison escapee who’s living a double life in 1980s Bombay throughout the Apple TV+ series. That look, he says, also required him to do away with his go-to beard.

“The bigger sacrifice for me was shaving my beard because this is my protection and I like looking at myself in the mirror more with the beard,” Hunmann says. “But I had a really strong conviction that Lin had to be sort of naked and stripped down to nothing when he arrived. I didn’t want to hide behind a beard or feel more handsome than I do without a beard. That was a very specific choice that I made.”

While Hunnam has grown accustomed to the man bun look, which sees its TV debut on Oct. 14 to kick off the 12-episode series, he’s also learned a thing or two about styling his long hair. Wearing it down is simply not an option, Hunnam explains.

“I look at Japanese culture, which I’m a big fan of, and I think those dudes, through the way they shape their hair and style their hair, is about the coolest look on the planet,” he says. “So I’m not at all mad at the man bun, but I’m very reluctant ever to wear it down.”

Shantaram, which is based on Gregory David Roberts’ international bestseller, allowed the actor to film in India, Thailand and Australia during the height of the pandemic. In the series, the Sons of Anarchy alum’s latest character runs a local health clinic while he’s in cahoots with the mafia in Bombay.

When it comes to his character, there’s not much more than hair styles that connects the two. Hunnam tells PEOPLE that he’s able to live out most of his “fantasies and desire for life” through his acting work, but his real life doesn’t see as much adventure as that of the fictional character of Lin.

“I’m much less adventurous in my regular life,” he says. “I spend about 10 months of the year on the road working, so when I’m not working, I tend to just want to be home with my lady.” His “lady,” Morgana McNelis, has been with him for over 15 years and Hunnam considers himself already married to her. The jewelry designer keeps a relatively low profile, and bought a ranch in California with her partner back in 2013.

Arriving this week, Shantaram is written and executive produced by showrunner Steve Lightfoot. Apple TV+ won the rights to adapt the novel in a 2018 bidding war. In the series Hunnam’s character of Lin is “committed to living under the radar and alone — a lifestyle that allows him to hold onto his freedom,” a description of the series reads. He eventually meets a woman named Karla, played by Antonia Desplat, and begins to weigh love and freedom.

“The book is a very rich exploration of the nature of faith, belief and how that informs us. I think within that, there’s a deep exploration of duality within the human condition of light and dark and how we navigate or surrender to one at the expense of the other,” Hunnam says. “That was the central theme that I was most excited to explore in Shantaram — this bigger idea percolating through the whole thing: what does all of this mean?”

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