Ellen DeGeneres has reunited with the cast of her 1990s sitcom, 20 years after the episode in which she famously came out as gay.
In February 1997, the comedian sat down with talk show host Oprah Winfrey and spoke openly about her personal decision to come out as a lesbian.
Then two months later, Ellen came out again, this time in character on her self-titled sitcom and opposite Oprah once more, playing Ellen’s therapist.
“It was called the ‘Puppy Episode’ because we wanted to keep it a secret until it aired, and because ‘Ellen Throws Her Career Away’ seemed too on-the-nose,” Ellen quips in a preview released online.
“I can’t describe to you how challenging it was to get this episode made. At the time it was so controversial which is why I thought this was important to celebrate to remember what it was like back then and appreciate how far we’ve come.”
In the special reunion, Oprah reunited Ellen on her talk and told her she “opened hearts and changed people’s minds” by coming out on US television.
“You would not be who you are … had you not had the courage to do that. And 20 years ago, you had no idea it would put you in this seat,” she said.
Ellen replies: “Whoever the essence of us is, we’re all born individual and unique, and we are supposed to be that exact person.
“We’re not supposed to conform, we’re not supposed to be like somebody else, we’re not supposed to act like somebody else.
“And as long as you stay true to exactly who you are, you will be rewarded in ways that you can’t imagine.”
Laura Dern, a regular cast member of the sitcom at the time, also reunited with Ellen to say she felt “so blessed” to be on the show and be a part of the landmark moment.
“Just watching the clip made me so emotional, because of all the things I feel privileged to experience in my life, as a human but also as an actor, there’s no greater gift than being the person that was with you and looking in your eyes as you said those words,” Dern said.
“When we did rehearse, you even whispered to me at one time, ‘Maybe I’m not going to say it because I haven’t said that out loud.’
“Watching you have this catharsis… and us literally holding each other up for this very emotional moment… it was so profound.”
The reunion episode of Ellen will screen in Australia on Monday, May 1 at noon on Nine.
(Photo by Michael Rozman/Warner Bros)