The actor, now starring in The Shrink Next Door and the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, has been crowned PEOPLE's 2021 Sexiest Man Alive
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Paul Rudd is grateful for his Midwestern roots.

The actor, 52, newly crowned as PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive, was raised in the greater Kansas City area and credits his upbringing with keeping him down-to-earth.

"I did think as I was growing up that it was good to be from a place that it was not 'cool' to be from," he tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "I thought I had this awareness, that if you grow up in a town that no one really wants to visit, it's good for your own character."

Paul Rudd

Watch the full episode of Sexiest Man Alive: Paul Rudd on PeopleTV.com, or on the PeopleTV app.

Even in his youth, Rudd says he "was probably the sexiest boy alive. Well, when I was a baby I was the sexiest baby alive and then I was the sexiest toddler alive," he says, keeping a straight face. "I have a feeling I could show you pictures throughout my entire childhood that would probably make you revoke this entire title and photo shoot."

Paul Rudd

Before graduating from Shawnee Mission West High School in 1987 (celeb friends Jason Sudeikis, Rob Riggle and Eric Stonestreet are also from the area), Rudd says he didn't "necessarily fit into any one clique. But I kind of thread the needle as far as I had friends all over the place."

So did he have an awkward phase?

"I'm still having an awkward phase," he says. "Oh my God, puberty hit me like a Mack Truck. All of a sudden my hair got really curly, my skin would break out, I was self-conscious like anybody. I took medicine and it made my lips dry out. It's a good look, it's a really good look."

Looking at some of his photos from high school, Rudd just shrugs.

Paul Rudd
Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/FilmMagic

For more of Rudd's exclusive interview and photos, pick up this week's special double issue, Sexiest Man Alive, on newsstands Friday.

The Ant-Man star insists he finally started feeling comfortable in his own skin as he's gotten older and became a father to kids. Rudd is husband to Julie, 53, and father to Jack, 17, and Darby, 12. "I think I've learned enough to know what's important, so I've become a little less concerned with some of the other trivial things," he says.

Now when he goes back to Kansas City (his mom Gloria and sister Mandi still call it home as well), Rudd always hits his favorite joints—Jasper's restaurant and Joe's Barbecue for a Z-Man sandwich—and tries to regulary attend Chiefs and Royals game. He's also helped raise more than $13 million for Children's Mercy Hospital with the annual Big Slick fundraiser.

"Whenever I told anyone, [they'd say], 'Where do you live?' I say Kansas, and the inevitable Wizard of Oz joke, that's all I'd hear," he says. "But it's funny, when I go back to Kansas city now, people are pretty great.  And I've never seen a town that's so proud of its own town. There's a lot of t-shirts that say KC on them. People really like living there, it's a nice place."