'The' 'Ellen DeGeneres Show' 's Last Dance: What It Was Like on Set for the Final Episode

After 19 seasons, the show aired its last episode with guests Jennifer Aniston, Pink and Billie Eilish

Ellen DeGeneres is seen during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"
Photo: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

I've never been a big fan of closure. Sitting in the audience in the Warner Bros. studio that has been home to The Ellen DeGeneres Show for the last 19 years, I watched as the crew bustled around the stage, readying — physically and mentally — for its last taping.

I'd been to the show several times in the past, but the energy on April 28 felt different. Excitement, nervous anticipation, sadness, a whirlwind of bittersweet emotions was palpable on the faces of the staff (who kept hugging each other) as well as the audience, which was packed with guests who had secured a coveted ticket.

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Ellen DeGeneres's wife of 13 years, Portia de Rossi made her way to her seat, much to the delight of the crowd, and other loved ones all settled in to support the host as she prepared to take her final bow.

Portia de Rossi; Ellen DeGeneres
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

When the music swelled, the door slid open and DeGeneres walked out onto the stage. It was clear that she was trying to keep her emotions in check. "I didn't want to fall apart," she explained to me weeks later. "Even in the rehearsal that day, I was losing it. It was just the anticipation of it all. I know it's time to move on and do something different, but it's just hard, even though it's the right thing to do."

DeGeneres, 64, took a deep breath and began her monologue, teeming with gratitude for her journey — both ups and downs — during the show's run. "My prevalent thought was love," she says. "It's why I have always done what I've done. It's an energy exchange. Looking in everybody's faces, I was just so grateful. That was the moment I recognized, 'Oh, this is the end of this chapter.'"

In this photo released by Warner Bros., talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is seen during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

Renowned for her dance moves, the host called for Stephen "tWitch" Boss, her longtime DJ, to play a song for one final turn around the studio and back into her chair on the stage. She then welcomed guests Jennifer Aniston, Pink and Billie Eilish, each bringing their own tearful memories of being on the show (Aniston has appeared 20 times over the years).

As the first guest ever in 2003, Aniston had brought DeGeneres a welcome mat. To commemorate the finale, the actress returned with a doormat that read "Thanks for the Memories."

jennifer aniston; In this photo released by Warner Bros., talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is seen during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif.
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

Eilish and DeGeneres both realized that the singer was only 1 year old when the show first premiered. Pink, 42, brought DeGeneres a basket of "retirement" goodies including knitting needles, a sourdough bread starter and bird-watching binoculars.

Commercial breaks were spent preparing for the next segment but as the episode quickly began to tick by, more tissues were brought out and passed around. Aniston, 53, and Eilish, 20, watched off stage alongside veteran producers Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner as Pink came back out to serenade DeGeneres with a moving rendition of one of the host's favorite songs "What About Us."

talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is seen with Pink, Billie Eilish, and Jennifer Aniston during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" at the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif.
Jennifer Aniston alongside Ellen DeGeneres, Pink and Billie Eilish on the series finale. Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.

When the hour came to an end, there was a stillness in the studio. DeGeneres looked into the camera and holding back tears, thanked everyone for their love along with her hope that she had brought some joy into everyone's lives as well.

With a whispered "bye," she walked over to the adjacent stage, where a couch was positioned in front of a television showing a live feed of the scene—exactly as it had been for her very first episode. At this point my professionalism failed me, and I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. DeGeneres sat down on the couch amidst thunderous applause. She turned her head to look back at the audience. And smiled.

Even as the cameras were turned off, the standing ovation continued for several minutes. DeGeneres came back over to address the crowd and the staff all began filing out from backstage to gather around.

Through tears she explained that it hadn't been easy to return to the show after weathering allegations of a toxic workplace in 2020, but she believed in its positive message and the crew had become her family. "I learned that I'm stronger than I thought and that I'm capable of letting things just repel off of me," she tells me later. "People are going to say things and have opinions, and I just need to know who I am and keep my head up."

After a final ovation, DeGeneres and tWitch playfully rapped together to Salt-N-Pepa's hit song "Shoop." When they finished, she slowly made her way through the throng, quietly exiting the stage of her beloved talk show one last time.

Ellen DeGeneres is seen during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

Three weeks later, sitting on the back porch of the Montecito, California, home she shares with de Rossi, DeGeneres insists, "It hasn't hit me yet that it's completely over." Her summer plans include going on safari with de Rossi, 49, and traveling to Rwanda for the grand opening in June of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a birthday gift from her wife.

"I'm going to miss everybody that I spent time with every single day," she explains, thinking of her future. "We've become a family. I mean, 19 years is a long time, and most of us have been together that entire time. That's what I'm going to miss the most."

As fans of the show watch the final episode and look back at the unforgettable moments of stars, epic games and scares and giving back, DeGeneres has but one wish. "I hope they remember laughing really, really hard and crying really, really hard when we did something that changed people's lives," she says softly. "That to me is what it was all about."

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