Ellen’s ‘bizarre’ rules for Today chat
A former executive producer of the Today show has opened up about his "bizarre" encounter with Ellen DeGeneres.
Neil Breen was the boss of the Channel 9 breakfast show in 2013 when Ellen came to Australia on a promotional tour.
Breen, who is now a 4BC radio host, told his listeners that "originally, she (Ellen) was going to co-host the Today show," during her trip Down Under, but that plan fell through.
"The whole thing got watered down to Ellen DeGeneres would do a sit down interview … with Richard Wilkins," Breen said.
The executive producer and Wilkins arrived at "one of the flash hotels in Melbourne" where the interview was going to be filmed.
"They controlled everything," he said about Ellen's army of producers. "They controlled the interview seats, the lights, how it would work, everything."
Before Ellen arrived, Breen claimed he and Wilkins were given a briefing by one of the talk show host's producers and were told to abide by some strict rules.
"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.'"
Breen said he was shocked by the producer's comments.
"I sort of said, 'Are you fair dinkum? I can't look at her?'" he recalled on 4BC.
Breen added that Ellen was surrounded by hangers-on during the interview and they continually interrupted Wilkins' chat.
"Every word she said, all these producers would giggle and laugh," Breen said. "I had to ask them to be quiet because we were filming an interview.
"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 continued. "But I can tell you, the people who worked with her walked on eggshells the whole time and the whole thing was totally bizarre."
Breen's comments come not long after it was announced that Distributor WarnerMedia had launched a probe into Ellen's talk show following accusations from current and former staffers of bullying and racism on the set.
Executives reportedly sent a memo to staff last week saying they have engaged an employee relations group and a third party firm, "who will interview current and former staffers about their experiences on set," as per Variety.
Earlier this month, a bombshell Buzzfeed report collated stories from 10 former and one current Ellen employee - all speaking anonymously - described a "toxic work environment" with a culture of "racism, fear and intimidation".
"That 'be kind' bulls**t only happens when the cameras are on. It's all for show," one former employee was quoted as saying.
Former employees alleged to Buzzfeed that they'd been fired for taking medical leave, attending family funerals, and one for posting a selfie in the office on her Instagram Stories.
Others claimed that raising complaints about offensive or racist comments from colleagues saw them labelled as "PC police".
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Ellen executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner insisted that "the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realise, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better."
Originally published as Ellen's 'bizarre' rules for Today chat