In 1997, Oprah guest-starred on the pivotal episode of Ellen DeGeneres’s sitcom in which she came out as gay. Now, in 2021, Oprah will be by DeGeneres’s side for yet another major moment in her career—this time, about her decision to end her long-running talk show.
The 19th season of The Ellen DeGeneres Show will be its last, with the final episode airing at some point in 2022. During the show’s May 13 episode, DeGeneres will speak to Oprah—who ended her own long-running talk show in 2011—about her choice. “We’re friends and we’ve talked about how hard this is,” Ellen said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
DeGeneres said she was no longer feeling “challenged” by the show after nearly two decades on air and over 3,000 episodes. “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 said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres originally planned to “stop after season 16.” Instead, she came to an agreement with NBC to settle on three more years, stopping at season 19. “That’s been the plan all along,” she said.
Even if it was planned in advance, DeGeneres’s decision to end the show also comes after months of controversy. A Buzzfeed expose published last July painted a picture of a toxic workplace environment, characterized by fear and intimidation, behind-the-scenes at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Current and former employees, who asked to remain anonymous, cited examples not being able to take off of work to attend funerals, or being told not to look DeGeneres in the eye. They also detailed incidents of racism and sexual harassment.
Following the article, DeGeneres apologized to her staff in an email, and the show held a virtual staff meeting to discuss the allegations. The report also led to an internal investigation. In August, DeGeneres announced three executive producers had been fired.
However, DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter the decision to end the show wasn’t linked to controversy. “If I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn’t have come back this season,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Still, DeGeneres—whose motto is “be kind”—said the allegations affected her. “My whole being is about making people happy. And with the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion and everything I stand for was being attacked. So, it destroyed me, honestly,” she said.
DeGeneres, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, hasn’t planned the next step in her career. However, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, she said she looks to Oprah’s example, in the sense that she can continue to grow after her talk show ends.
“I don’t look at this as the end at all. It’s the start of a new chapter and hopefully my fans will go with me wherever I go. That being said, if I never do anything else ever again, I’m so proud of what this show stood for and still stands for and what we’ve made it through,” she said.