Actor Johnathon Schaech Opens Up About Never Being Ellen's Boyfriend

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These days, it's hard to imagine Ellen DeGeneres as anything other than out and proud in the public eye. But once upon a time in the '90s, the comedian was less forthcoming about her sexual orientation. According to an old friend, it seems she feared that audiences wouldn't want to watch her show if they knew she was gay.

Or so actor Johnathon Schaech claimed in a recent Reddit interview. The That Thing You Do star and DeGeneres were regularly photographed together at events during the mid-'90s, before Ellen came out in the now-iconic two-part episode of her eponymous sitcom.

"My manager asked me to accompany her to events," Schaech responded on a Reddit AMA thread, after being asked what the deal was between him and the comedian nearly two decades ago. "She was scared people would not watch the show, her sitcom Ellen, because she was gay."

This isn't the first time Schaech has been asked if he dated DeGeneres. About two years after she came out on television, the actor told Movieline that his favorite tabloid rumor was that he was, in fact, Ellen's boyfriend. "Needless to say, we're just good friends," he commented at the time.

Schaech also called it an "honor" to be on DeGeneres's arm while the pair was out and a bout. "I grew up with two gay aunts and a gay uncle. My aunt died of cancer. She was a proud woman and she didn’t get proper care because she didn’t want to be away from her partner," Schaech explained on Reddit. "Hospitals didn’t allow partners the same rights as a spouse. When you have someone you love in your life that is gay or a lesbian it’s very clear that they deserve the same rights as anyone else. It's not about religion." He also praised DeGeneres as a "great example of the human race."

Reps for the award-winning host have not yet responded to Refinery29's request for comment. But DeGeneres did discuss her decision to come out — both on television, and in general — in a segment of Oprah Winfrey's OWN series, Master Class. "What I had been saying to myself was, ‘Would I still be famous, would they still love me if they knew I was gay?’” she recalls wondering in the clip.

"And my fear was that no, no they wouldn’t, and then it made me feel ashamed that I was hiding something. It made me feel ashamed that I couldn’t feel honest and really be who I am, and I just didn’t want to pretend to be somebody else anymore so that people would like me." Ultimately, DeGeneres came out the in February of 1997 on The Oprah Winfrey Show; and then again, on her sitcom, in April of the same year.

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