The British actress, 26, has made a lot of headlines over the last few months, whether it was for her rumored feud with Don't Worry Darling director Olivia Wilde, see-thru red carpet looks or split with Braff. But she spoke positively about her ex on BBC's This Cultural Life podcast, crediting him for teaching her to keep her nose out of the comments when the conversation is about her.
"Going from no one talking about you and then suddenly everyone talking about you" is a jarring experience of fame, said Pugh, who shot to stardom after Little Women in 2019. She's very much in-demand at the moment with a slew of projects in the works after Don't Worry Darling opened at the No. 1 spot in September, including Dune 2, Marvel Cinematic Universe's Thunderbolts and the Braff-directed film, A Good Person.
Gossip about her in tabloids and on social media can bring on "normal stresses — like anxiety" because suddenly there are "thousands of people" discussing "you and you can't change the conversation," she said. "It would be mad for me to say that stuff doesn't [affect me]… Of course it does." But she navigates it by not seeking out the negative.
"It's so much easier said than done, but you can't read that stuff," she said. "I remember my ex-partner Zach Braff" saying that during "the first pop of my career" with Little Women. "I was reading comments, reading comments — 'cause you just do. As it's happening, you want to make sure everything's [positive]."
But then, "Negative comments would come in — or negative things about our relationship," she recalled. "He would say: 'Well, how did you come across this?' I said: 'I found it.' And he goes: 'But how did you find it?' [I started to reply]: 'Because I was…' and he answered for her: 'You were looking.'"
Pugh admitted she was, and the Scrubs alum told her, "'You can't look for that stuff because you're going to find something that's horrible.'" And now she gets it. "If you're doing that — if you're looking for it — then inevitably you're going to find something that hurts you. So, sadly, it's the hardest thing to do but you can't engage. You can't look."
Pugh's relationship with Braff was under scrutiny when they went public in 2019 due to their 21-year age gap. She said in August, when she confirmed she and Braff split earlier this year, that she found the comments cruel and invasive.
"I don’t think that people, just because they have this job, that every aspect of their life should be watched and written about," she said. "We haven't signed up for a reality TV show."