Laura Dern Lost Work After Appearing in 'Ellen' Coming Out Episode

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday December 5, 2019

Laura Dern, in a new interview with Vulture revealed that she received backlash, lost work, and needed a security detail after appearing in the April 30, 1997 episode of "Ellen." That episode, known as "The Puppy Episode," was the first time Ellen (both on and off screen) came out as gay, and Dern played her love interest, Susan.

Dern told Vulture that joining the show was the "greatest thing I could've ever been part of, honestly."

She went on to describe what the episode meant to her personally, saying:
"But what was amazing, which I will never forget, that when she looked in my eyes, she said it was the first time she said 'I'm gay' out loud. We didn't rehearse it, so when she said it to me, and was looking in my eyes and holding my hands and I felt her shaking ... the gift — it makes me want to cry — the gift of that, the intimacy of what that means, was such insight for me. And I'll carry it for the rest of my life."

NBC News reports that despite the deeply personal meaning to both Ellen and Dern, the episode was not received with universal support. "Despite its ratings success and cultural impact, however, the episode was not well-received by everyone at the time and resulted in backlash and death threats," according to NBC.

Dern also told Vulture that she lost work for nearly a year after the backlash. "Only months before that, I was in Jurassic Park, the most successful movie ever. So it was like, you're being offered this, you're being offered that — and it just stopped. Which is kind of wild. By good fortune of the long path of a career, you can look back and say, how great to have it be felt, how backward we are."

She also mentioned that after the experience, she received so many threats that she needed a full security detail to maintain her safety.

"We all spent the next couple of years really struggling in work and safety," Dern said. "It was radical to experience that. It was the only time I ever experienced having to have full security detail."

After the whole ordeal, Dern said she took some time off, which was difficult for her career as a woman.

"I took time off when I had my son, and I feel like, in a way, it gave room for less opportunity," Dern said. "I will say, for women, it's hard to take time off by choice, because then you feel like you have to start all over when you're coming back to something."

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