Today show's Richard Wilkins on 'weird, cold' Ellen DeGeneres interview

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·4-min read

Today star Richard Wilkins has recalled the 'weird, cold' interview he had with Ellen DeGeneres, following news that she's ending her talk show after 19 seasons.

In a piece for 9Honey, the host described his chat with the US television veteran, 63, that took place "a decade or so ago" as "very professional" but "not a warm experience".

Richard Wilkins interviews Ellen DeGeneres
Richard Wilkins has recalled his 'weird, cold' interview with Ellen DeGeneres. Photo: Channel Nine.

'Weirdest of interviews'

The 63-year-old showbiz icon was invited onto the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the Warner Bros. lot in California in around 2010.

"It was the coldest studio I've ever been in — figuratively and literally," he wrote of the experience.

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He said it was the "weirdest of interviews" and "quite intimidating" as he was asked to conduct the chat on stage immediately after taping an episode with hundreds of people in the audience watching on. 

"The full audience witnessing the daytime talk queen being grilled mercilessly by some bloke they'd never heard of before.

"All very professional but definitely not a warm and fuzzy experience."

Richard interviewed Ellen again when she was in Melbourne promoting Swisse products, an experience he "actually quite enjoyed".

Ellen Degeneres on the set of her talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show
Ellen announced she was quitting her talk show after 19 seasons, with the program set to end in 2022. Photo: Getty Images.

Not so for Today's then-executive producer, Neil Breen, who came away from the interview with a completely different and fairly negative opinion.

"[Neil] was aghast and commented publicly that Ellen's people insisted that she would not have any contact with anyone other than me.

"She would walk on, do the thing, walk off — that was that. No photos, no autographs, no nothing."

Ellen's team 'walked on eggshells'

Neil Breen actually opened up about his Ellen experience in 2020, saying “the whole thing was totally bizarre”.

He was the executive producer of the Channel 9 breakfast show back in 2013 when Ellen was visiting Australia on a promotional tour and told listeners on his 4BC radio program the host's extensive team of producers "controlled everything".

“The producers called us aside and said, ‘OK, this is how it’s going to work here this morning. Ellen’s going to arrive at 10.15 and she’ll be sitting in this chair here and Richard you’ll be sitting in this chair here. Neil, no one is to talk to Ellen. You don’t talk to her, you don’t approach her, you don’t look at her. She’ll come in, she’ll sit down, she’ll talk to Richard and then Ellen will leave.’”

Neil recalled asking, “Are you fair dinkum? I can’t look at her?”

After everything was done and dusted, Neil said he couldn’t tell you if Ellen is a “nice person or not”.

“I’m not blaming Ellen, because I didn’t get to talk to her because I wasn’t allowed to, so I don’t know if she’s a nice person or not, I wouldn’t have a clue,” he said.

“But I can tell you, the people who worked with her walked on eggshells the whole time and the whole thing was totally bizarre.”

Orchestrated' attacks

Richard's comments came just hours before Ellen gave her first TV interviews since announcing her talk show will end in 2022.

She sat down for a chat with close friend and fellow talk show veteran Oprah Winfrey but the pair didn't address the toxic workplace allegations which some believe are a contributing factor to Ellen's shock decision to end the show after 19 seasons.

But Oprah did, however, touch on the fact that all of the show's staff would soon be out of work something that Ellen appeared visibly uncomfortable in discussing.

ellen degeneres
Ellen appeared to visibly squirm when Oprah mentioned her staff. Photo: Ellentube

It was Today's Savannah Guthrie who was left to address the toxic workplace allegations and ratings slide, during a subsequent interview with the host.

Ellen remained adamant the controversy and declining ratings were not factors in her decision, noting that if she was still "having fun, I would do this show with nobody watching." 

However, she admitted the personal attacks hit hard and said they felt "orchestrated" and "coordinated." They also felt "very misogynistic."

Ellen recorded an emotional monologue announcing the news on her show.

Speaking to her viewers, she broke down in tears, saying, "The past 18 years have changed my life. You’ve changed my life.

"And I am forever grateful to all of you for watching, for laughing, for dancing, sometimes crying. This show has been the greatest experience of my life and I owe it all to you."

Additional reporting by Kristine Tarbert.

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