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Renee Zellweger, American Way Magazine

American Way Magazine

Renée Zellwegeris back after six years away from the spotlight. 

The Bridge Jones's Baby star graces the September cover of American Way magazine for American Airlines, along the way offering candid insight into her motivation for leaving Hollywood in 2010 and why she chose to return. 

"I planned to take some time off after Chicago (2002), but there kept being once-in-a-lifetime experiences in front of me that I didn't want to miss out on," Zellweger mused of her professional life. "Then I learned you can't keep doing that forever, so I chose to see what would happen if I did let that once-in-a-lifetime experience that was ahead of me go and just be still and see what I could build."

The 47-year-old dedicated much of her time off to helping others, traveling to Thailand and Cambodia, as well as Liberia with a gender equality organization to empower local women and advocate for their rights. 

Of her experience abroad, she told the mag, "I think traveling off the beaten path is a good idea for anybody because it's essential for understanding not just the rest of the world but yourself."

But underneath Zellweger's desire to experience a world outside of the entertainment industry was an itch to get back to her roots. "I craved the creative process again," she admitted. "When I stopped making films, it was because it became more depleting than rewarding. It was because of the way I was living my life, and I don't think you can be good in a creative medium if you aren't grateful for the opportunity to participate.

"I started to miss it and I felt ready," Renée added. 

Coupled with the serendipitous opportunity to reprise one of her most beloved roles, the actress said it was a "no-brainer" to sign on for the Bridget Jones' franchise third installment because, as she put it, "There's this great reunion waiting in London with this character I love and all my friends who I've adored for years. It was an excellent excuse to go back."

And as it turns out, Renée even draws upon some of Bridget's quirks throughout her daily life. 

"I smile a lot on red carpets in the midst of those moments that hopefully people won't know about," she revealed. "I smile through the Bridget Jones moments. There are a million of them, all day, every day. But, I'm hopelessly hopeful. I'm an optimist. I guess I just believe that you've gotta laugh; have some humor."

For more from Zellweger, read her full interview with American Way here.