Reese Witherspoon on the Moment She Took Charge of Her Career: 'I Needed to Take That Control Back'

The Sing 2 star opens up about when she realized she could create a better career path for herself

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After working for three decades in Hollywood, Reese Witherspoon has learned a thing or two about taking charge of her own career.

During a recent chat with her Sing 2 costar Scarlett Johansson for PEOPLE, the actress, 45, opened up about finding a more empowered place for herself in the industry she's worked in since she was a teenager.

"I had a whole moment when I was about 34, where I started to realize I was letting other people be in a lot of control over my life and I didn't feel comfortable with it," says Witherspoon. "And I felt like I needed to take control of my career back. Because as a child actor, you just have a different relationship with your representatives. And then I had grown up and I had all the relationships with the heads of studio and all of that, but I wasn't making any of the phone calls or taking my career into my own hands. So that, something flipped for me around [age] 34,35."

Witherspoon, who founded the highly successful, Emmy-winning production company Hello Sunshine in 2016, which she sold in April, says some important things have changed for the better in her business.

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For more on Reese Witherspoon and her Sing 2 costar Scarlett Johansson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

"I feel better about stepping into positions of leadership," she says. "Because I have been doing this for 30 years, I do know what I'm doing. I can get on a set and pretty much tell you what's happening. And I'm really proud of the fact that I'm a really good problem solver. Part of what is so beautiful about our business is every single movie is this giant collaboration, and you're only as good as the team that you're on. So I really enjoy that teamwork. And it's great to see now women leading those teams."

The Morning Show star says the last couple years and living in a pandemic have given her a new perspective on further career goals.

"I think I'm even more appreciative because of that time off during the lockdown, the pandemic, it gave me time to kind of refocus about what I want to do," she says. "What do I really want to put out in the world? What do I really want to achieve?"

Speaking about her latest film, Sing 2, Witherspoon says she loves that her character Rosita, an overworked mom with dreams of performing, has 25 kids.

"I like Rosita's kids. I just think they're hysterical. They come in like a little train of people or pigs," she says. "My son loves the scene in the first Sing where I say 'Hi Jimmy. Hi Barbara. Hi Kenny. Hi Benza. Hi...' He's like, 'How did you remember all their names?' I was like, 'I read it off a piece of paper.'"

Sing 2 opens in theaters Dec. 22.

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