Now addressing the remark with British GQ, the 32-year-old insisted it was an innocent comment meant to compliment the shoot and recalled phoning his publicist as the furore unfolded.
He told the outlet: “I was like, ‘I just need to shut the f**k up. I just shouldn't say anything,’ And she was like, ‘Kind of’.”
The actor also opened up about his personal life following his split from wife Addison Timlin, admitting he’s experienced some “low lows” throughout 2023.
Reflecting on being catapulted into the spotlight after The Bear's release, he said: “It's been insane, a lot of high highs, a lot of terribly low lows.”
As the discussion turned to him taking a break as the Sag-Aftra strike rolls on, he added: “With everything going on in my personal life, I thought, ‘OK, let’s just pump the brakes in general, and maybe you don’t work for a while.’
“I made this choice to not work for the rest of the year and just be with my daughters and just slow it all down.”
His comments came as he spoke to GQ as part of their Men of the Year celebration 2023 in association with Boss, in the first of six covers set to be released.
In May, it was reported that Timlin had filed for divorce after three years of marriage, listing their separation date as September 2022.
The reason for their split remains unknown, but the star had paid tribute to Timlin a mere four months earlier when receiving a Golden Globe for his turn in the Disney+ series, The Bear.
“Addison Timlin, I love you deep in my bones. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for everything you’ve done,” he said at the time.
The pair married at the Beverly Hills courthouse in October 2019 and share two daughters, Ezer, four, and Dolores, two.
They first met as teenagers on a film set in 2008, and are believed to have started dating around 2013.
Timlin has starred on Law & Order, Californication, and most recently, American Horror Story while White first found fame on Shameless, and has received much success with his new series, The Bear.
The December/ January issue of British GQ is available via digital download and on newsstands on November 28.