Laura Dern says she struggled to find work after starring in Ellen’s landmark coming out episode
Laura Dern has revealed that she couldn’t get work for a year after starring in an episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom where the star came out as gay.
Dern appeared in the 1997 episode of Ellen called ‘The Puppy Episode’ as Susan, an out lesbian who helps Ellen’s character come to terms with her sexuality.
In a new interview, Dern has revealed that she didn’t understand at the time just how controversial the episode would be – and revealed that she didn’t’ work for a year afterwards.
Laura Dern: Work ‘just stopped’ following her appearance on Ellen’s coming out episode.
“I was doing successful independent movies, and, only months before that, I was in Jurassic Park, the most successful movie ever,” Dern told Vulture.
“So it was like, you’re being offered this, you’re being offered that – and it just stopped. Which is kind of wild.”
Despite the career challenges that followed her appearance on the show, Dern said it was the “greatest thing I could’ve ever been part of” and described it as “an incredible honour”.
So it was like, you’re being offered this, you’re being offered that – and it just stopped. Which is kind of wild.
“I was excited. I didn’t think twice about it. It was a great opportunity. And then the calls started coming in once I’d said yes, from a couple of advisers in Hollywood who were out gay men, [telling me] to not do it.
People were ‘really worried’ about her appearance on the show.
“A lot of people in my life really worried. And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous.’ This is where I grew up in a bubble and didn’t realise we weren’t there yet or something.”
Dern finally realised just how controversial Ellen’s coming out was when she was on set with Oprah Winfrey when cops swarmed around them and evacuated as there had been a bomb threat.
“We all spent the next couple of years really struggling in work and safety. It was radical to experience that. It was the only time I ever experienced having to have full security detail.”
Despite the difficulties that came with her role, Dern said she will carry the experience with her for the rest of her life.
“It’s shaped and continues to shape who I am as an advocate, as an activist, as a parent,” she said.