In the episode, Dern plays a woman who helps Ellen DeGeneres’ character come out as gay. The episode aired around the same time Ellen shared how she identifies with the world. The episode was watched by 36 million people.
In a recent interview with Vulture, Dern said she was excited to play that significant role, even though she was advised against it by some industry members.
“I was excited. I didn’t think twice about it. It was a great opportunity,” the “Big Little Lies” star said. “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. A lot of people in my life really worried.”
Dern said she paid the advice no mind, but she became aware of how dangerous it could be when she experienced a frightening situation with her co-star Oprah Winfrey.
“The first time I became aware was, Oprah and I were having a snack, and suddenly a flood of cops swarmed the set and the stage while we were rehearsing,” Dern recalled. “They’re like, ‘There’s been a bomb threat, we’re sweeping the stage.’ And they start literally rushing us off the stage.”
Dern noted that they were only working on the episode for 10 days, but had to continue worrying about their safety for the next couple of years to come.
“It was radical to experience… It was the only time I ever experienced having to have to have full security detail,” Dern said. “But what was amazing, which I will never forget, that when (DeGeneres) looked in my eyes, she said it was the first time she said ‘I’m gay’ out loud.”
The 52-year-old actress said that she and DeGeneres never rehearsed the part of her coming out, so that moment is something Dern said she would remember for the rest of her life.