“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,” DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter. On the next episode of her show on May 13, the comedian and host will sit down with Oprah Winfrey to discuss her departure.
This decision was a long time coming — DeGeneres told THR that she had planned to stop after season 16, but Warner Bros. convinced her to stay on for three more years. In a 2018 New York Times interview, she shared that she was dealing with the tension of her wife Portia de Rossi encouraging her to move on from the show, while Warner Bros. executives and others were trying to convince her to stay. “'People look forward to this show every day, and there aren’t many shows out there that are just pure joy like this,'" DeGeneres says her brother once told her. But after over 3,000 shows (180 per year) and around 2,400 celebrity interviews, DeGeneres finally has decided to call it quits for good.
"When we did our 3,000th show, they showed that highlights montage and everybody was emotional," she said. "We all hugged and everyone had tears in their eyes, and [Warner Bros.’ Unscripted TV President] Mike Darnell was here going, 'You really want to [end this]?' Look, it’s going to be really hard on the last day, but I also know it’s time."
Launched in September 2003, the highly-rated The Ellen DeGeneres Show became known around the world for its mix of fun and lighthearted celebrity interviews, games, and generous charitable donations (reportedly amounting to nearly $70 million over the years). The show earned 64 Daytime Emmys, and DeGeneres was awarded the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2015, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama in 2016.
However, in 2020, the show was embroiled in controversy. A BuzzFeed News exposé broke in July, detailing serious allegations of workplace toxicity and resulting in the ousting of three top executives in August. DeGeneres, who often touts her "be kind" ethos, kicked off the season 18 premiere of Ellen by addressing the scandal. “I learned that things happened here that never should have happened," she said. "I take that very seriously and I want to say that I’m so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realized that with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” DeGeneres made sure to note that this isn't the reason she's ending the show — despite it being the highest-rated premiere in years, however, viewership has been on a steady decline.
As for what's next, DeGeneres said that she's not sure what's in store, but wants to "for sure" continue acting in movies and spending her time doing environmental conservation work. "If there were a great role, I’d be able to do that, which I’m not able to do now," she said. "I’m opening up my campus in Rwanda next year and I want to be more involved with conservation and everything that matters to me as far as the environment and animals."
However, she said that for now she'll try not going full-speed ahead for a while. "My agent is just like, 'Why don’t you just sit still for a minute. You probably don’t even know how exhausted you are and what it’s going to be like to sit still.' And I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do that because I’m like a Ferrari in neutral. I’m constantly needing to go. So, that’s my first challenge and then I’m going to figure it out."
Refinery29 reached out to DeGeneres and Warner Bros. for comment.