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One of the show’s writers heard this news on his way to work, reported it on the lot, and according to Savel, Disney’s legal department “totally closed down” the leak before it could happen. Bruce Handy, who was then a full-time writer for , had been assigned a profile piece on De Generes—a reveal of what he recalled as the “national open secret” about her sexuality.On the day of the taping, Handy sat among a studio audience who knew they were about to witness history.The episode had garnered A-list guest stars, including Laura Dern, who was cast to play Ellen Morgan’s love interest, Susan. Billy Bob Thorton and Demi Moore also appeared in a dream sequence in the episode.

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They inserted little jokes throughout the entire fourth season to tease out the character’s eventual coming out. ,” Ellen Morgan’s friends would call, before she’d leap out of a door.

“I was in the closet,” she playfully shouted as she exited a coat closet in one scene. characters were often tragic—think Tom Hanks’s Oscar-winning performance in —or, more often, nonexistent. The title was a red herring to prevent leaks, but came with its own meaning.

She’s hosted the Oscars, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, starred in two blockbuster cartoons, and all the while lived openly as a gay woman.“I mean, I knew that it would be big, but I had no idea that it would be this big,” De Generes replied to Oprah in that 1997 interview.

Twenty years later, it’s difficult to comprehend just how big it really was.

She was the perfect person to dispel people’s fears about what a gay woman might be like.”Before Ellen Morgan became the first gay lead character on television, L. All scripts were printed on dark burgundy paper that could not be Xeroxed.