“A lot of people in my life really worried,” Dern, 52, told Vulture in December about playing Susan in “The Puppy Episode,” the character that helps DeGeneres’ character realize she’s gay. “I was like, ‘This is ridiculous.’ This is where I grew up in a bubble and didn’t realize we weren’t there yet or something.”
The Big Little Lies star revealed that it wasn’t until she was sitting on set that she discovered how big this episode really was.
“Suddenly a flood of cops swarmed the set and the stage while we were rehearsing. They’re like, ‘There’s been a bomb threat, we’re sweeping the stage.’ And they start literally rushing us off the stage,” she recalled.
The Jurassic Park actress only filmed for about 10 days on the episode, which not only had the talk show host coming out on TV, but it also was used as her coming out in real life however, Dern had years of work safety issues.
“We all spent the next couple of years really struggling in work and safety,” the Little Women actress explained. “It was radical to experience that. It was the only time I ever experienced having to have full security detail.”
Despite the fear for her own safety that followed, the California native will never forget the experience of being on set with DeGeneres, 61, and sharing in that pivotal moment when she told the world who she was.
“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. 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,” she said. “I’ll carry it for the rest of my life.”
She added: “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.”
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