“It almost impacted the show,” she said of the controversy. “It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season.”
Asked for further comment, representatives for DeGeneres and Warner Bros. Television, the show’s distributor, referred The Washington Post back to the Hollywood Reporter article.
On Wednesday evening, Warner Bros. released an advance clip of DeGeneres’s monologue that will air on Thursday’s show, in which she broke the news to her audience. She kicked things off by noting that the show had recently celebrated crossed the 3,000 episode mark.
“Next season, Season 19, is going to be my last season," she told her virtual audience members. “The past 18 years, you have to know, has changed my life. You all have changed my life. And I am forever to all of you for watching, for dancing, sometimes crying."
She got choked up as she spoke: "This show has been the greatest experience of my life and I owe it all to you.”
DeGeneres explained that she thought a lot about her decision and talked it over with her wife, Portia de Rossi. But deep down she knew that two years ago, when she signed a new three-year contract, that Season 19 would be the last.
“I truly have felt like next season was the next time to end this amazing chapter. In 1997, I knew it was time to come out on my sitcom and live my truth. Back then I had a vivid dream that a bird flew out of a cage and set itself free, because it needed to get out of that cage,” DeGeneres said. “Recently, I had a dream that a bird...came to my window and whispered, ‘You can still do stuff on Netflix.’ And that was the sign I was looking for.”
“I promise you that we are going to have a fantastic final season,” she concluded. “It will be a season where I truly get to say thank you. Thank you all. And every day will be a celebration.”
Rumors of DeGeneres’s off-camera personality differing from the kindness she preached on television have long circulated in Hollywood, as addressed in her December 2018 interview with the New York Times titled “Ellen DeGeneres Is Not as Nice as You Think.” The host’s reputation began to take hits soon afterward, beginning with her efforts to rehabilitate Kevin Hart’s image in January 2019 — after he stepped down as Oscars host due to outrage over his past homophobic comments — and continuing that fall as she defended her friendship with former president George W. Bush.
In a viral moment from an episode that aired in November 2019, Dakota Johnson countered DeGeneres’s claim that she hadn’t been invited to the actress’s birthday party: “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen,” Johnson said, sparking a meme that “brought down Ellen,” as some joked.
Early in the pandemic, DeGeneres compared social distancing to “being in jail” during a segment taped in her luxurious living room, fueling further criticism. Additional rumors about DeGeneres’s character had circulated on social media around that time as well, building to the first BuzzFeed report, published in July, that detailed “day-to-day toxicity” on the set of “Ellen.”
Employees “said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals,” the BuzzFeed article reads. “One employee, who claims she was fed up with comments about her race, essentially walked off the job. Others said they were also instructed by their direct managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office.”
Warner Bros. launched an internal investigation into “Ellen” and fired three of its top producers — which DeGeneres addressed on the Season 18 premiere, aired in September. Though she didn’t share specific details, she noted in the episode that “I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility.”
In the Hollywood Reporter interview, DeGeneres acknowledged she had “learned some things” from the investigation but added that “in general, the culture today is one where you can’t learn and grow, which is, as human beings, what we’re here to do.”
“I check in now as much as I can through Zoom to different departments and I make sure people know that if there’s ever a question or ever anything, they can come to me, and I don’t know why that was never considered before,” she said. “I’m not a scary person. I’m really easy to talk to. So, we’ve all learned from things that we didn’t realize — or I didn’t realize — were happening.”
“Ellen” premiered in 2003, six years after DeGeneres came out as gay on her sitcom — after which she became one of the most prominent members of the LGBTQ community in Hollywood. The show amassed dozens of Daytime Emmys over more than 3,000 episodes, as DeGeneres herself received honors including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2012 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Though a reliable ratings hit throughout its run, “Ellen” has reportedly lost more than a million viewers since the Season 18 premiere.
(This post has been updated with comments from DeGeneres’s upcoming Thursday monologue.)