Warning: The following sentence will make you feel old.

It's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones film was released. Fifteen years since the first.

In that time, much has occurred. The popular discourse surrounding feminism and the role of the single woman in society has evolved. Also, Renee Zellweger went away for a while, taking a six-year sojourn from acting that was interrupted only by some unpleasant and judgemental reporting about her appearance at a red carpet event.

But now Bridget, and Renee, are back for

Bridget Jones' Baby

, in which our heroine finds herself pregnant to either her soulmate-ish ex, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), or suave American tech billionaire Jack Qwant (series newcomer Patrick Dempsey from

Grey's Anatomy


"It was time. I was ready. I missed it," Zellweger tells TimeOut about her return to acting. "It's a creative medium that means something to me that is inexplicable. And I definitely felt a longing for it. And when I heard about the new Bridget Jones movie I got excited about the prospect."

Excited, but concious of the obligations that come with revisiting such an iconic character.

"I wanted it to matter," says Zellweger. "If you make a third film based on a character that is beloved to so many people, you want to be careful with it, and I feel a responsibility to Helen Fielding. I wanted to know that the story that we told was based on something substantive. And that it was true to the tradition of this character and what she represents."

Although we haven't seen her on the big screen since 2009's Case 39, Zellweger hasn't exactly been resting on her laurels.

"I didn't retire and go somewhere on the beach or anything like that. I was just exploring another skill set I wanted to develop and interests that I wanted to see if I had an aptitude for. I developed two shows, created a TV show and filmed it. And other things, school. I lived life. I kept some promises that I made to myself a long time ago."

The plot of Bridget Jones's Baby has almost no connection to the third Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy, but the screenplay was co-written by author/creator Fielding, and Sharon Maguire, who helmed the beloved first movie, returned to direct the new film after skipping the second entry.

Bridget Jones finds herself caught in another love triangle in the latest installment.
Bridget Jones finds herself caught in another love triangle in the latest installment.

"We have a female writer, female director, female producer and a female-centric film. And it makes me smile that people have been responding to it so positively because I think there is a message in that," says Zellweger. "That these stories are valuable. That women do want to see stories about themselves on screen. Stories that they relate to, human stories. Hopefully that is something that the powers that be and the tastemakers will recognise."

Although some elements in Bridget's world remain constant, the context has definitely moved on since we last saw her.

"It was really familiar for a lot of reasons and the process of preparation was the same, except there was a lot to explore in terms of deciding how to animate her evolution to this period of time. How she has changed, how she has grown, most importantly how she hasn't."

That last part informs the aspect of Bridget that Zellweger says she relates to most:

"Her failures, her awkwardness and that she gets back up. No matter how much she tries to meet her own personal ideals or standards, she always comes full circle to be okay with whatever it is that she is as an authentic person. I find that inspiring."

Something else that has changed since we last saw Bridget is the centrality of social media, which Zellweger stays well away from.

"Because you don't know who the source is. So how do you know whether their opinion should have an effect on your life? And do you really want to have the voice of someone whose motivations are questionable in your head? No. No"

"It's so vast now. I know it unquestionably is valuable for so many reasons. Political movements, communication and unity, education. It serves in the betterment of so many things. But it also diminishes a lot of things, because it perpetuates negative stereotypes and false information and it makes the line between truth and speculation very ambiguous. That's a bigger problem. Not for an actress who gets her feelings hurt or somebody slags off the person's movie or whatever it might be. There is a bigger consequence."

When it comes to premieres, Zellweger says she enjoys being able to celebrate the work with her friends and collaborators, but naturally has reservations about other aspects of the process.

"There is another element that I try to steer clear of, which is the commodification of the actor in terms of scrutiny and what kind of story you can write that is salacious, that will sell magazines or get people to tune in. That revolves around diminishing the person in some respect. That part is not fun. But I only get smatterings of it, because I don't focus in on it, I don't look for it and I do my very best to pretend it's not there."

Potential Baby Daddy 01: Colin Firth as Mark Darcy

Colin Firth returns as Mark Darcy, having won an Oscar and developed a sideline as an action star in the time since he last portrayed the character. "It actually felt like quite an interesting exercise to go and revisit something that seemed so long ago and left behind," says Firth.

"I've seen Renee, we have kept in touch. She brings something into a room, and that's always energising for everybody. But more than that it was great to find her on such wonderful form, both as the person, she had that relentless cheerfulness and she seemed to be so game for everything. And then to watch her performance, which I found so alive."

Potential Baby Daddy 02: Patrick Dempsey as Jack Qwant

With Hugh Grant's Daniel Cleaver out of the picture, the position of Mark's caddish competition for Bridget's affections is filled by Jack Qwant, the brains behind a popular dating app. It is Dempsey's first role after his shock exit from Grey's Anatomy after 11 years.

"It was perfect timing because I think the people who know me from Grey's will be happy," Dempsey tells TimeOut. "It fits in, but it pushes it a little bit, career-wise for me." As far as replacing Hugh Grant? "Yeah they're big shoes, of course, absolutely, he's very funny, and known for this too, so to step in, you kind of have to find your own way."

Who: Renee Zellweger returns as Bridget Jones
What: Bridget Jones' Baby
When: In cinemas next Thursday