Renée Zellweger Studied Law During Her Break from Acting: 'I Snuck Into UCLA for a Little While'

"I needed to step away and kind of grow as a person," the Oscar winner recalled of her Hollywood hiatus

Renée Zellweger sought out the classroom during her break from acting.

The two-time Oscar winner stars on the new NBC series The Thing About Pam, and while chatting with Today's Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie on Monday, she revealed that during her hiatus from Hollywood, which was from about 2010 to 2016, she took law classes.

"I needed to step away and kind of grow as a person and learn some things that were not related to work. I mean, that's one of my favorite things about the work, is that you have an opportunity to learn things that you wouldn't otherwise have occasion to explore. Went to school and just, you know, took some time out and decided I wanted to maybe participate in a different way."

When Kotb asked about going to school, Zellweger clarified, "I snuck into UCLA for a little while and did some public policy. International law. Interested in politics."

"Is this toward an end goal, or just something you wanted to do in the interim?" asked Kotb. The Judy actress responded, "I'm not sure. But it's one of my favorite things. I'll bore you to death at a dinner party, I really will. Just don't get me started. It's true — ask any of my friends!"

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Back in 2019, Zellweger spoke to PEOPLE about taking time off from the movie business, explaining that while away from the spotlight, she learned "that I like being privately creative very much."

That same year, the star told New York Magazine that she also had to prioritize her mental health when opting to take a break from acting. "I wasn't healthy," she said at the time, calling the break crucial. "I wasn't taking care of myself. I was the last thing on my list of priorities."

Coming to that realization inspired Zellweger to try therapy for the first time in her life, she recalled. Her therapist then helped her navigate the emotions she was feeling during her retreat from the business.

Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger. Frazer Harrison/Getty

"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," she said. "I needed to not have something to do all the time, to not know what I'm going to be doing for the next two years in advance. I wanted to allow for some accidents. There had to be some quiet for the ideas to slip in."

Zellweger added, "I had a good five-year period when I was joyful and in a new chapter that no one was even aware of. Six years. It was important, that time. It's a quieter life, and I love it."

The Thing About Pam airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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