As soon as 9-1-1 debuted in January, fans quickly noticed star Oliver Stark’s birthmark over his left eye. And they offered an outpouring of positive feedback.
“People are really connecting to my birthmark,” Stark tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’m getting lots of messages from moms saying that their child has a birthmark on their face and it’s a huge boost of confidence to them. And I never thought that would be a thing, but apparently it is and I’m really happy if mine has managed to inspire some confidence in them.”
The British actor, however, admits he hasn’t struggled to accept his appearance. “I’ve never had an issue with it,” the 26-year-old assures. “I think I’d have a very miserable life.”
“Pete Krause has become a bit of a mentor to me,” Stark says. “If there’s anything that I’m struggling with right away, I’ll go to him and I’ll ask him questions. We’ve formed a really great relationship. The same with Connie and Angela. They’re so welcoming.”
Playing a firefighter on Ryan Murphy‘s Fox drama challenged the newcomer in terms of acting, but when it came to looking the part, Stark reveals he cleaned up his diet years ago.
“I’m actually in my second year of being a vegan,” he says. “It was for ethical reasons. I was a huge meat eater, but there came a turning point where I was like, actually I don’t think I want to do this anymore. I’m a big animal lover. And I just thought, let me give it a go. It wasn’t with health or anything in mind, and then I learned about health benefits afterwards.”
Although the Into the Badlands alum claims, “I don’t see myself ever leaving” the vegan lifestyle, he admits, “I do miss meat. I see meat and I know it’s delicious.”
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Also two years ago, Stark made an even bigger change. Following three months of FaceTiming actress Hannah Gottesman, who he met on Instagram, Stark relocated from the U.K. to Los Angeles and moved in with her.
“I lied to my parents and told them I had met her before,” he recalls. “Basically I’d been stalking her for about a entire year, liking photos — totally creepy. And then eventually she followed me back. But I still didn’t want to message her because I was like, there’s no way for a guy to message a girl on social media without sounding creepy. Eventually she sent me a message and said, ‘Are you going to like my photos or are you going to say hello?’ ”
That initial hello turned into texting and FaceTiming, and eventually a trip to the U.S. for the pair to meet in real life. “I came here for about three weeks and then never went home,” Stark says. “We met at the airport and moved in together.”
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He continues, “There’s every chance that it wasn’t going to work and we wouldn’t like each other in person, but we just passed our two-year anniversary, so things are good.”
9-1-1‘s season 1 finale airs Wednesday on Fox at 9 p.m. ET.