Sixteen years is a long time to hold down any job, let alone a daily TV show. That’s how long Ellen DeGeneres has been dancing into our living rooms and telling people to be kind to one another on her daily talk show, The Ellen Show. Now, days before the release of her first standup special in 15 years, DeGeneres is opening up about the future of her beloved program and is revealing that it may be time to hang up her sneakers.
In a new, in-depth interview with The New York Times DeGeneres is speaking candidly about the future of her show, and how the persona of the most likable person on TV is both a blessing and a curse.
“There’s been times someone wants a picture, and while I’m doing a selfie, they’re like: ‘You’re not dancing!,’” says DeGeneres in the new interview. “Of course I’m not dancing. I’m walking down the street.”
DeGeneres recently extended her contract into 2020, but the future of her talk show beyond then is uncertain. Two of the closest people to her are on opposite sides of how Ellen should proceed, with wife Portia de Rossi advocating for DeGeneres to end the show and do something different, while Ellen’s brother Vance DeGeneres thinks the world needs her high energy, feel-good hour of television now more than ever.
“I just think she’s such a brilliant actress and stand-up that it doesn’t have to be this talk show for her creativity,” de Rossi said. “There are other things she could tackle.”
DeGeneres says she would love to do another movie role, playing someone unlikable, a far stretch from her most recent work as the forgetful, but lovable Pixar fish Dory. De Rossi would like to see her wife doing a radio show or podcast. “I don’t see the end of her show as her career ending,” says de Rossi.
In her upcoming Netflix special Relatable, DeGeneres gets the chance to show the side of her that doesn’t often see the light on daytime TV. Her comedy is still clean, putting her in the same small category of comedians that include Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan, but away from the oversized charity cheques and dancing kids, DeGeneres can get more introspective. In her new special she jokes about her wealth and status among the Hollywood elite; “I wanted to show all of me,” says DeGeneres. “The talk show is me, but I’m also playing a character of a talk-show host. There’s a tiny, tiny bit of difference.”
It seems almost impossible that there could be a time when a weekday afternoon doesn’t include Ellen dancing down the aisle with fans. While we felt the same way when Oprah Winfrey announced her daytime TV retirement, the difference is that we had The Ellen Show to soften the blow. DeGeneres is still undecided as to whether she’ll continue her show past 2020, but the more pressing question is, who will pick up the afternoon time slot with Ellen does eventually give her final sendoff?