In Disney's Finding Nemo (opening today), Ellen DeGeneres dives undersea to play Dory, a Blue Tang fish who suffers from short-term memory loss, but still bubbles with positive energy. Wait, who's this article about again? Oh yeah! Ellen DeGeneres... she starred in that TV show Ellen and dated Anne Heche. Er, anyway, while she bares little resemblance to her scaly, animated alter ego, DeGeneres does have a similar outlook on life.
"Dory's innocent," the comic says. "She's optimistic. There's not even a thought in her head that a shark would hurt her or that being swallowed by a whale is a bad thing. In some ways, I'm like that, but not quite so much.
"It was fun to play," she continues, "because I got to go in, over the course of three years, and stand there and play this happy, optimistic, hopeful, fearless creature every time I was [recording Dory's voice]. Then, I'd go in my car, and I'd go home and get disappointed by people."
In part, DeGeneres is referring to the chaos surrounding her decision to come out of the closet, both personally and on Ellen. "I think [it] was everyone's concern that, all of a sudden, my comedy would change because everyone knew I was gay," she recalls. "It was really not about anything other then letting go of something that I didn't feel like holding onto anymore.
"I thought that people knew anyway! I didn't think I was really revealing a big secret. I just thought it would be an interesting way to also deal with the character on television. Again, that's me being innocent and naive, in thinking it wouldn't have been as big a deal as it turned out to be."
These days, the funny lady is tremendously busy. Apart from Nemo, she just filmed an HBO stand-up special, which airs this summer. She's also written a new book called The Funny Thing Is..., due out in October, and plans to launch her own TV talk show this fall. Through it all, DeGeneres stays positive about her life, even if she's grown a bit world weary. "[Overall], it has been nice," she muses. "Now, the next thing to lift will be the need to talk about it all the time. I've learned my lesson, and my life will not be shared anymore. My comedy will be shared, but my life won't be shared anymore."