Ellen DeGeneres shed more than a few tears leading up to the final episode of her eponymous talk show.
But her last dance on Thursday, May 26, will be an especially “emotional” one, an insider who was at the taping has told The Post.
In her remaining weeks after nearly two decades on air, she’s welcomed some final face time with a procession of A-list guests including Oprah Winfrey, Justin Timberlake, just-anointed “Saturday Night Live” alum Kate McKinnon, Michelle Obama, Sean “Diddy” Combs, potty-mouthed Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Hart, Chelsea Handler and Michael B. Jordan, among others.
But the show source said her tears have been “happy” ones untinged by bitterness or regret, despite the heavy cloud hanging over her since allegations of a “toxic” work environment first cast a pall over her “be kind” brand. In 2020, DeGeneres faced a string of negative workplace allegations, for which she subsequently apologized yet nonetheless led to a shuffling of upper-level showrunners for the show’s 18th season.
“Her mood during the last two weeks was very crying, but a happy cry,” the source said. “All her crying was nothing but gratitude for what we had accomplished together. The sadness was that she wasn’t going to get to see her staff every day.”
The feeling is reportedly mutual since taping ended on April 28.
“The entire staff has been texting with her,” the source added. “Everyone misses her.”
The last episode is “very classic Ellen” — showcasing her “talking to guests, having fun, laughing,” according to the insider, who offered details about Thursday’s final send-off, which will be bookended with DeGeneres’ first guest ever back on Sept. 8, 2003 — “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston, 53. “Even though 20 years had passed, it felt like it was yesterday that they were talking to each other,” the insider said. “It was very sweet.”
The host will also acknowledge “Bad Guy” singer Billie Eilish, 20, as propelling “the next generation” of entertainers as DeGeneres, 64, is herself “bowing out.” And she will be serenaded by longtime gal-pal Pink, 42, who will treat her to an “emotional” performance of “What About Us,” which is one of DeGeneres’ favorite songs.
“Pink has always been very, very close to Ellen. You know, they’re both tough women who say what they say and they are what and who they are,” according to the source. “Pink was one of those people who appreciated Ellen for exactly who she was and what she meant to LGBTQ people — to anyone who needed a voice and didn’t have a voice.”
The final studio audience — which included DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, and her brother, Vance, who previously called negative allegations about his sis “bulls – – t” — also got to witness a tribute segment about DeGeneres’ legacy, most notably as a gay icon, that reportedly “had the entire place crying.”
As DeGeneres bows out, she seems to be gearing up for life beyond the studio. She and her wife recently dropped nearly $21 million for a Moorish-inspired home in Santa Barbara County, California. Earlier this month, they also sold a $13.9 million Monticello property that they had acquired in September 2021. While she hasn’t revealed other career plans, the source said she’ll “continue to buy and make beautiful homes. And spend some real downtime with Portia.”
Not that she’s actually retiring.
“If you know Ellen, she’ll be back and she’ll be back in a big way,” the insider said.
But her exit also marks a new era for others hustling to take over talk television. Actor and former “The View” host Sherri Shepherd, 55, is gearing up for her own chat fest later this year that will replace the one previously hosted by Wendy Williams. Meanwhile, it was announced a year ago that 40-year-old Kelly Clarkson’s self-named interview series would move to DeGeneres’ coveted afternoon time slot for its fourth season.
But also grabbing the spotlight in a big way is Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, who this fall will launch an eponymous Fox show — and she’ll do it from DeGeneres’ former longtime Warner Bros. studio and offices. noti.group’s source revealed that DeGeneres’ old LA digs are already being renovated into a new space for her and said many members of the staff and crew are staying on for her new venture.
“I am the future,” Hudson, 40, boldly announced at Warner Bros. Discovery’s upfront presentation to advertisers last week.
Before then, though, many eyes are still on DeGeneres’ embattled exit. A commentary published Friday by the Los Angeles Times recounted her numerous “missteps” — a cringe-worthy on-air disagreement with Dakota Johnson, showcasing her friendship with former President George W. Bush — and questioned DeGeneres’ “authenticity,” even labeling her “as unknowable as ever.”
But that assessment apparently flies in the face of the more than 200 people who stuck with her through her farewell 19th season.
The source pointed to longtime crew members “reduced to tears” in reaction to the dimming of the studio lights — “these kind of burly men really being emotional and crying and grateful for Ellen for providing them with a life that allowed them to send their kids to high school, college and have houses,” they said. “It was just amazing to see.”
In a tweet posted after her final taping late last month, DeGeneres said hosting the show was “the greatest privilege” of her life and hinted at the ultimate purpose for her hourlong gig, writing: “But whatever was happening, my goal was always for the show to be a place where we could all come together and laugh for an hour.”
That, the show insider pointed out, was also the goal for her weeks-long exit.
“Ultimately, I think when you watch these last shows, you remember, ‘Oh, this is what this show represented. This is who this woman was,’” they said.
And the buoyant celebration on the final day of the taping overshadowed any possible lingering upset about allegations involving DeGeneres.
“The controversy from two years ago, there was no sense of that on that day at all,” the insider told The Post. “No one hated her. No one was miserable. No one.
“We ended like we began: just having fun and bringing hope and joy to people.”
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[Written in collaboration with other media outlets with information from the following sources]