Jesse Metcalfe felt a lot of “pressure” over his appearance during his ‘Desperate Housewives’ days.

The 43-year-old actor – who played John Rowland during the first six seasons of the show from 2004 – admitted his looks were constantly “picked apart” because of his frequently-shirtless role, and even when he wasn’t filming, he felt he had to maintain the “best shape” possible or else he’d be criticised even more.

He reflected in an interview with i-D magazine: “You were positioned as this perfect ideation of masculinity. How did that affect your body image, or sense of self as a whole?

“Being a sex symbol is very much about the roles that you play and my roles put me up on a pedestal. But my appearance was also criticised and picked apart by a lot of people in the media. Having your shirt off in every episode of Housewives brought a lot of pressure.

“You have to stay in the best shape you can and then between projects, everyone expects you to stay in that shape 24/7, 365. That’s not realistic. That’s why paparazzi catch actors between projects looking ‘out of shape’ — they’re taking time off and that includes the gym. You can run your body into the ground working out, not to mention the other things male actors do to stay fit.”

The ‘John Tucker Must Die’ actor was left feeling “caged” by the focus on his appearance and admitted it had an impact on the work he was offered at the time.

He added: “I was definitely caged by it. The industry tends to think if you look a certain way that’s all you have to offer. The best thing I could’ve done at that time was be patient, which I was not.

“I did a string of indie films that didn’t work and should’ve kept my nose clean, so to speak. Between jobs I just didn’t know what to do with myself.”