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After Ellen DeGeneres first revealed that she would be ending her eponymous talk show in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the host spoke to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie about her decision to walk away after almost two decades on daytime TV.
In the Today show sit-down, DeGeneres reiterated, as she previously told THR, that she’s not stopping the show because of criticism of her personally and claims of a toxic workplace on the series that surfaced in the summer of 2020, but the host “really did think about not coming back because it was devastating.”
When Guthrie asked if DeGeneres felt she was being “canceled,” the host mused that there was something off about the criticism.
“I really didn’t understand it. I still don’t understand it. It was too orchestrated. It was too coordinated,” she said.
DeGeneres previously addressed the toxic-workplace allegations on the air in her season 18 premiere, telling viewers in part, “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.”
But she clarified to THR yesterday that while those “very hurtful” claims “almost impacted the show,” they’re not why she’s ending things next year.
“If I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season,” DeGeneres told THR.
She repeated that she was unaware of the allegedly toxic work environment and that she couldn’t have been aware.
“I don’t know how I could have known when there’s 255 employees here and there are a lot of different buildings, unless I literally stayed here until that last person went home at night,” she said. “It is my name on the show, so clearly it affects me and I have to be the one to stand up and say, ‘This can’t be tolerated.’ But I do wish someone would have come to me and said, ‘Hey, something’s going on that you should know about.'”
She later added that the negative coverage “did feel very misogynistic” and reminded her of the backlash she experienced when she publicly came out as gay in 1997.
“My therapist is like, ‘Very few people go through such huge public humiliation twice in a lifetime,'” she said. “How can I be an example of strength and perseverance and power if I give up and run away? So it really is one of the reasons I came back. I worked really hard on myself.”
DeGeneres has spoken before about how she’s struggled with having her “be kind” motto attached to her identity, and when asked by Guthrie if she regrets making that her motto, DeGeneres said yes.
“It was fine for like 17 years until someone was like, ‘You know what would be good clickbait, is if the be-kind lady isn’t kind,'” DeGeneres said after explaining that the phrase was a response to anti-gay bullying. “It wasn’t supposed to be my title, it was just a message.”
When asked what her motto would be now if she could go back, DeGeneres joked it would be, “Go fuck yourselves.”
In all seriousness, she added, “My motto is still ‘be kind.’ I just don’t want that to be my label.”
She also reflected on what she learned about herself after reexamining things amid the allegations last summer, explaining that she recognized that her impatience and need to move quickly has caused her to want to start the show before everyone’s ready and that she wishes she made it clear to her staffers that she was there for them.
“We grew so big so fast,” she said. “There are a lot of people who work here that I never got a chance to meet or check in with.”
DeGeneres told THR, in an exclusive interview that ran yesterday, that she plans to wrap up her show, on her terms, next season, Ellen‘s 19th.
“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged — and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore,” she told THR. “I need something new to challenge me.”
While the timing of her departure was DeGeneres’ decision, her producers and executives at the studio behind the syndicated daytime series, Warner Bros., were among those trying to convince her to stay on. But DeGeneres said she knew she needed to move on.
Speaking to THR, DeGeneres mused that new challenges could range from a movie role to working to protect the environment and animals. She said she has “some ideas” about her next step, but her agent is advising her to “sit still for a minute.”
As for what she’s planning immediately when her show comes to an end, DeGeneres said she expects to get away.
“I hope [I’ll be] on an island someplace, floating in the water,” she said, noting that her campus in Rwanda for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is set to open a month after her planned final show.
She broke the news of the end of the show to her staff on Tuesday, May 11.
Ahead of that, the host told Guthrie, she hadn’t been sleeping.
“I’ve been trying to anticipate how to tell them and hope that everybody would take it OK,” she said. “A lot of people were very emotional, and I got emotional.”
She added that she was emotional when she announced the end of her show on the air.
In the Today interview, DeGeneres also said that despite reported ratings declines for her show, that’s not why she’s ending the series, either.
“It’s got nothing to do with why I’m leaving,” she said. “If I was having fun, I would do this show with nobody watching. So it’s got nothing to do with that.”
DeGeneres talked further about her exit with friend and former daytime fixture Oprah Winfrey on Ellen‘s Thursday show.
Watch DeGeneres’ full Today show interview below.
8:51 a.m. This story has been updated with more from the extended Today interview, which was posted online.
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