During the two weeks in the run-up to the finale of her long-running talk show, Ellen DeGeneres was emotional, sources told Page Six.
“Ellen’s been crying a lot,” a source told Page Six. “The whole few weeks leading up to the finale were very emotional.”
At the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, Calif., that she has called home for almost 20 years, DeGeneres, 64, filmed her final episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on April 28. The last show, which will air May 26, features an A-list lineup of guests, including Jennifer Aniston and Pink — both of whom appeared on the very first episode on Sept. 8, 2003. Billie Eilish, Michelle Obama, Justin Timberlake and Zac Efron also turned up for the last few shows.
But while DeGeneres was sad to see the end of her 19-year run, she didn’t want to go out with a bang. There was no red carpet at her final show, as some who know her had wanted.
“She wanted to go out quietly,” a highly placed TV source told Page Six: “It was friends and family of the cast and crew in the audience.”
“Ellen — 100 percent — did it on her own terms. She went out the way she wanted to. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house on the last day,” said another source who knows DeGeneres. Indeed, “Friends” icon Aniston started crying as soon as she walked on set and embraced DeGeneres.
DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, 49, was on set for the final two weeks to support her, as were many of the comedian’s friends and her brother Vance DeGeneres.
DeGeneres famously came out as gay on her hit sitcom “Ellen” 25 years ago. Her talk show was similarly groundbreaking. After a scandal that nearly made her quit in 2020, a senior industry insider who knows DeGeneres observed: “People forget this was a culture-changing show.
“When Ellen started the show, she was told by the studio ‘You can’t say “we” when you talk about your girlfriend,’ that’s what she was dealing with at the beginning.
“No one ever thought that the show would be aired, even to sell it in the beginning was so difficult. She always wanted to go to 19 seasons, she had people who relied on her for their livelihoods … She pushed through those last two years. But it was a great run.”
DeGeneres announced her exit last May. It came 10 months after a BuzzFeed News exposé detailed allegations of a toxic workplace on the set. Staffers alleged they were banned from speaking directly to DeGeneres, and the star was blasted for not taking responsibility for her workers’ well-being. “If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on,” said one former employee.
One former employee also told the site that they had experienced racism while working on the show, which has won over 60 Emmy Awards since it first aired in 2003.
Others accused executive producer Ed Glavin — whom former “Ellen DeGeneres Show” producer Hedda Muskat dubbed DeGeneres’ “barking dog” — of inappropriate touching, and leading with intimidation and fear. Executive producer Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman were also accused of sexual harassment by former staff.
Leman denied “any kind of sexual impropriety,” and Norman said he was “100% categorically denying these allegations.” Glavin did not respond to the claims.
But DeGeneres did make reference to them.
On her Season 18 premiere a year after the allegations arose, she told viewers: “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.”
After an internal investigation by show producers Warner Bros., Glavin, Leman and Norman were dismissed. Ratings dropped substantially in the 2020-2021 season compared to the previous one, from 2.6 million to 1.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. But this current farewell season has seen a boost thanks to its starry guests.
In an interview with “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie to confirm her exit, DeGeneres admitted that she had thought about quitting in 2020, adding that she “really did think about not coming back because it was devastating.”
“Did she want to quit when the [scandal] happened? Yes, she didn’t want to go back and film even in September 2020, but she knew she had to fully finish out the show. She loves her team and she loves the show,” said the TV insider.
Exiting after 19 years makes sense because “she likes ‘1’ — it signals the beginning and ‘9’ signals the end. She didn’t feel like she had to hit 20,” the insider added.
DeGeneres — who has hosted over 4,000 guests, played over 2,000 games, and given away almost half a billion dollars to viewers and people in need — celebrated the end of the show at a party in Hollywood with only crew and friends — and no celebs — invited.
The intimate vibe was typical Ellen, insiders say. “When you look back at all the things she’s done for people over the 19 years, it’s powerful.
“The most important thing for Ellen during the final few weeks and for everyone on the team was to show the family that that show is — and so the emotion came from the feeling of togetherness they had,” said another source who knows her.
Last month, DeGeneres celebrated her 25-year coming-out milestone on her talk show. She married de Rossi in August 2008, when gay marriage was legalized in California. They live in Montecito, Calif., where the property addicts have flipped more than 15 homes. Most recently, in February, they splurged on a $21 million Montecito house called Villa Tragara.
Talking about her sexuality, DeGeneres told viewers: “When I came out, people warned me that it was going to ruin my career, and they were right for a while. Actually, for exactly three years, I lost my career. But look at me now.
“It really goes to show you how important it is to be your authentic self, and how important it is to accept others as their authentic selves,” she continued. “So, it’s been 25 years since my coming-out episode, and the only time I’m in the closet now is when Portia and I play hide and seek.”
There were 270 staffers on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” when DeGeneres bade farewell on her last episode, and according to those on set, she paid tribute to them. And they also praised her. She has paid out millions in bonuses to staffers, as Page Six reported.
Kalen Allen, whose became a regular after his food reaction videos caught the attention of DeGeneres, tweeted: “Before The Ellen DeGeneres Show, I was a college student with five jobs, a desire to be great, and $100 to my name. This place turned my life upside down in three months. It was never just a job or a 15-minutes of fame for me.”
Next month, DeGeneres is going to Rwanda, where in February, she set up the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The Ellen Fund’s initial goal was to help secure a future for wild mountain gorillas by building The Dian Fossey Fund a permanent home.
She’s taking 20 friends and colleagues along with her on an all-expenses-paid, trip where she will visit the campus for the first time. Those who know her are quick to stress that she quietly gives away millions of her money to those in need.
Sources said DeGeneres has another stand-up show that she wants to film for Netflix— her 2018 special “Relatable” was a hit — and a return to acting is seriously on the table. “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” will also continue to live on digital, run by Ellen Digital Ventures, with games and all her social content.
In an Instagram post on April 29, DeGeneres wrote: “When we started this show in 2003, the iPhone didn’t exist. Social Media didn’t exist. Gay marriage wasn’t legal.
“We watched the world change, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But whatever was happening, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all come together and laugh for an hour.”
DeGeneres went on to thank viewers for allowing her to enter their living rooms, iPhones, and social media feeds as the years progressed. She wrote that it was “the greatest privilege” of her life. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
On saying goodbye: The source who knows DeGeneres said, “It was tough … she’s sad to leave her team, but she’s ready to leave her show.
“Ellen’s in a great place … it’s been a hard journey, but she’s learned a lot. I would not bet against her.”