Renee Zellweger Did Something Unexpected During Her Break From Acting

Renee Zellweger reprised her titular role in 2016's "Bridget Jones's Baby," marking her return to the big screen after a six-year hiatus. At the time, the actor spoke about being drawn to the iconic part. "As an actress, it's a dream come true role," Zellweger told Vanity Fair. "What I love the most about Bridget is her vulnerability and her openness," the actor added. "I love that she makes it okay to be imperfect."

Prior to the film, Zellweger quit Hollywood, as the constant strain of jumping from project to project took its toll. "I wasn't healthy. I wasn't taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities," she told New York Magazine (via Vulture) in 2019 when reflecting on her decision to step away from Hollywood. Working with a therapist helped Zellweger realize she needed to redirect her focus. "He recognized that I spent 99 percent of my life as the public persona and just a microscopic crumb of a fraction in my real life," the "Judy" star recalled.

Being away from the limelight had the intended consequences Zellweger desperately sought. "Well, I mean, it was nice to have authentic exchanges with people for a while," she told InStyle in 2019, while mentioning how much she enjoyed the anonymity. During Zellweger's break from acting, she focused her efforts in an entirely unrelated field.

Renee Zellweger went to school during her acting hiatus

Although Renee Zellweger left the acting world from 2010 to 2016, she remained busy. "I needed to step away and grow as a person, learn some things that were not related to work," she said on "Today" on March 7. This led Zellweger to further her education, but in an area that many fans might find surprising. "I went to UCLA for a little while to study public policy," she said on the daytime show. "International law, very interesting, just interested in politics," she added. The actor joked that while she enjoyed engrossing herself in studying politics, she had no clear-cut plan on how to apply the knowledge she gained outside of "[boring people] to death" at parties.

Besides furthering her education, Zellweger looked back on her acting sabbatical as being crucial in her personal development. "I had a good five-year period when I was joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of," she told New York Magazine (via Vulture) in 2019 when reflecting on that contemplative time away from Hollywood. "It's a quieter life, and I love it," she added.

During a rare public appearance in 2014, while Zellweger was still on her acting break, the "What/If" star made headlines for how much her looks had changed. "I'm glad folks think I look different! I'm living a different, happy, more fulfilling life, and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows," she told People at the time.