• Laura Dern has revealed the impact of starring opposite Ellen DeGeneres in the star's famous coming out scene. (Getty Images North America)
"We didn’t rehearse it... she was holding my hands and I felt her shaking..."
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

4 Dec 2019 - 11:01 AM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2019 - 11:01 AM

It's been over 20 years since actress and all-round icon Laura Dern appeared opposite Ellen DeGeneres in the groundbreaking 1997 'Puppy Episode' of DeGeneres' self-titled sitcom - the episode in which the comedian and TV host came out as gay.

And it still makes Dern emotional.

In a new interview with Vulture's E. Alex Jung, Dern has opened up about the lasting impact of being DeGeneres' scene partner in what would become an historic moment of TV.

“I was excited. I didn’t think twice about [accepting the role]. 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,” Dern revealed.

“A lot of people in my life really worried. And I was like, ‘This is ridiculous.’"

On the show, Ellen's character - appropriately called Ellen - chases down Susan (Dern's character) in an airport, telling her that she's gay and accidentally sharing the news over the airport's loudspeaker system.

Speaking to Vulture, Dern recalled how profound the scene felt at the time.

"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," Dern revealed.

"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.

"It’s shaped and continues to shape who I am as an advocate, as an activist, as a parent. It’s a profound thing when you see someone bring their truth, but also all the layers of shame and fear that have been put onto you because of feeling like the other, whatever your experience is. So I’m forever grateful."

It wasn't all good news, though. Dern admitted that the backlash to the scene - which Ellen herself has opened up about in the past - left her in a precarious position with work and personal safety.

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

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The 20-year-old said that he had wanted to come out earlier, but struggled with anxieties about the possible reactions.