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I’m So Ready for the Renee Zellweger Comeback

Zellweger will star in the new Netflix series What/If.


There are three things I’m passionate about: more diverse representation in film and television, dachshunds in costumes, and the comebacks of beloved 90s actresses over 40. So you can imagine my excitement over the news that Renee Zellweger was headlining a new series for Netflix.

The synopsis for the dramatic anthology series reads “Neo-noir social thriller WHAT/IF explores the ripple effects of what happens when acceptable people start doing unacceptable things. The first season of the Netflix original series focuses on a mysterious woman’s lucrative, but dubious offer to a cash-strapped pair of San Francisco newlyweds.”

The series was created by Mike Kelley (Revenge, Jericho) and produced by Robert Zemeckis. What/If also stars Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe), Daniella Pineda (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Louis Herthum (Westworld), and Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters).

The series marks Zellweger’s first foray into television, which has become an increasingly popular medium for women of a certain age. The roles for women over 40 in TV are far more nuanced and complex than the offerings in film. Actresses who have made the transition include Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Winona Ryder, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and many more. After all, we’re currently in the golden age of television, which is home to some of the most dynamic and exciting material for actors of all ages and genders. Which is why many actresses are turning down the thankless roles of “wife/girlfriend” to appear in challenging, award-winning material like Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects, and Stranger Things.

Zellweger rose to stardom in the 90s thanks to her breakout role opposite Tom Cruise in 1996’s Jerry Maguire. She went on to star in films like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Me, Myself & Irene, and multiple Oscar winner Chicago. In 2004 she won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Cold Mountain.

But Zellweger’s star started to fade in the late 2000s, with a string of flops and under-seen indies. The last big budget film she did, 2016’s Bridget Jones’s Baby, raked in a dismal $24 million domestically, although internationally the film broke $200 million.

Though Zellweger has been working steadily, it’s always disheartening to see a beloved actress suddenly disappear from the limelight when she turns forty, a phenomenon that rarely happens to men. And her comeback vehicle of choice looks like a solid departure from her typical roles. It will be interesting to see the actress best known for her “girl next door” appeal take on a femme fatale role.

Her character is described as “a shrewd and mercurial San Francisco venture capitalist. She is magnetically charismatic, seductive, charming, even vulnerable when it serves her purpose. But she’s also a virtuoso of deception with a cauldron of destructive secrets, including a deeply buried metaphorical deal with the devil that set the course for her life back when she was still just a girl herself.”

Zellweger as a dark and mysterious antagonist? Yeah, I’m interested.

What/If premieres on Netflix on May 24th.

(via Collider, image: Adam Rose/Netflix)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.