EXCLUSIVE: Ellen DeGeneres says 'Finding Nemo' came along at her lowest point
Ellen DeGeneres helped create one of Disney-Pixar's most memorable characters and she dished to ET about what the success of the role meant for her.
DeGeneres, 57, provided the voice of Dory the forgetful fish in the 2003 animated classic, Finding Nemo. The Emmy winner told ET that the uplifting movie came along at a time when she was at her lowest.
"I hadn't worked at all," DeGeneres told ET. "People don't realize that, because it took three years to do Finding Nemo. In the time that [The Ellen Show] was canceled, while I was doing nothing, [writer/director] Andrew Stanton had heard my voice on TV and how rambling I was and how I never stayed on topic, and he wrote Dory with me in mind."
DeGeneres explained that Dory's motto, "just keep swimming," is a philosophy that she's seen work in her own life.
"By the time Nemo was coming out, I had just gotten [Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show], but during that time nothing had happened," DeGeneres said. "So 'just keep swimming' certainly applies to me and to a lot of people out there."
DeGeneres has always been about heart, hard work and bringing happiness to as many people as she can. For her contributions to comedy, DeGeneres was awarded the ET Icon Award. The distinction was created to honor stars that have made a huge impact on our audience over the span of decades.
Perhaps her most iconic moment took place when she came out as gay on an episode of The Ellen Show in April 1997. In the episode, titled "The Puppy Episode," DeGeneres spills her heart out to a psychiatrist played by Oprah Winfrey.
When DeGeneres says that she wants to find "someone special," Winfrey asks, "Has there ever been anyone you felt you clicked with? What was his name?"
"Susan," DeGeneres replied to laughter from the live audience.
That episode earned DeGeneres an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, but the victory was bittersweet, as ABC ultimately canceled the show.
"Of course I was angry at the time, because I wanted the support," DeGeneres said. "I knew that I could possibly lose my show. I didn't realize how many people there were out there that were struggling. I'm suddenly hearing from people that were considering suicide, and that I did do a lot for them and help them."
Watch the video for a look at DeGeneres from her earliest ET interviews: