Meg Ryan on Her 8-Year Hollywood Hiatus and Why She Doesn't Think She's a 'Good Famous Person' (Exclusive)

The 61-year-old actress speaks to ET ahead of her new film, 'What Happens Later,' hitting theaters Nov. 3.

Meg Ryan is sharing why she stepped away from Hollywood for nearly a decade, and how doing so refueled her creative juices while allowing her to value the things that matter most to her.

The queen of rom-coms is back following an eight-year hiatus with What Happens Later, a rom-com she co-wrote, directed and stars in opposite David Duchovny. It's her first rom-com since 2009's Serious Moonlight, though she last appeared in 2015's Ithaca, the war drama in which she made her directorial debut and starred alongside Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard and her son, Jack Quaid.

But after after Ithaca, the 61-year-old actress made the conscious decision to walk away from the subtle, yet inevitable, entrapment that comes with finding stardom in Hollywood, a world in which celebrities are treated not only differently but ushered into a bubble with a velvet glove and roped off from seeing or experiencing how the rest of the world lives and operates.

It's a world Ryan says she no longer had any interest in, a world she says is akin to when one slips into a luxury car and the outside noise is muffled into silence when the doors are slammed shut. 

"I have to say, I don't think I was a very good famous person," she admits to ET's Nischelle Turner. "I just don't think I'm a good celebrity ... I just always felt a little bit like life was over, like, outside this little bubble; outside some sort of membrane. And I remember cars closing -- like, expensive cars -- and then you don't hear the outside anymore. You're roped off in that part of thing, and I just knew it's just not good for an artist or a creative person to have limited life, in a way, to draw from."

Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal at The 30th Anniversary Screening of When Harry Met Sally on April 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California. - Getty

To change things up, Ryan says she moved out of Los Angeles. This isn't to say she didn't enjoy interactions with fans who would come up to her and tell her they admired her in the countless, emotion-stirring rom-coms she starred in, whether it was Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally or You've Got Mail.

"I have a very charmed life. People generally smile when they say hi to me, and they're happy about some of the movies I've done, and that's great," Ryan explains. "I'm not saying anything bad about that. I have a very charmed experience, I recognize that. But I wanted to sort of just extend out of that, move out of L.A. Just change it up."

In her time away from Hollywood, Ryan afforded herself the luxury of slowing down time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak, outside of the actress Meg Ryan persona. She's a mother to Jack, whom she shares with ex-husband Dennis Quaid, and she's also a mom to 19-year-old Daisy True Ryan, whom she adopted in 2006. 

"I'm grateful that I'm a mom and I'm grateful that I have friends," Ryan says. "I'm grateful that my life has so many different aspects to it. I traveled a lot. So, by now, I felt like, oh, I have some stuff to say with this movie."

And thus, her return to Hollywood.

In What Happens Later, Ryan stars opposite Duchovny as former lovers who are reunited and snowed in as a storm delays their respective connecting flights. As optimist Willa (Ryan) and pessimist Bill (Duchovny) unpack their shared history two decades after their split, their enduring personal connection appears undeniable. 

Having her hands and eyes all over What Happens Later -- from pre- to post-production -- is an experience Ryan soaks up with delight as co-writer and director.

"You get to be front and center. You get to be involved with someone else's creative life in an intimate way," she explains. "That is cool. You learn how to talk to musicians, you learn how to search for the light with a [director of photography] whose life is about the light, sound. You become aware of life in a very intense way as a director."

What Happens Later will hit theaters Nov. 3.