(NEW YORK) — The animated film Finding Nemo made an enormous splash when it was released 13 years ago and its sequel, Finding Dory, is headed to theaters this weekend, with comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres reprising her role as the voice of Dory — the blue tang fish with short-term memory loss who’s trying to find her family.
DeGeneres said on Tuesday’s Good Morning America that she hoped people were inspired by the film to “just keep swimming.”
“There’s always another way, that’s a new message in this movie. And that is the truth. There’s always another way,” she said. “Don’t ever just, you know, put up with something or just say, ‘Well, that’s the way it is.’ And then your disadvantage can actually be your strength. So if you have a disability, you should embrace what it is that — it empowers you in a different way.”
As a comedian, DeGeneres said she was extremely sensitive and had “lots of sadness” in her to fuel a portrayal of sorrow. To depict Dory feeling lost, DeGeneres said she drew upon real-life experiences from the earlier part of her life.
“I didn’t realize I was lost until I started really doing some soul-searching and you know, reading the right books and going to therapy,” said DeGeneres. “And then I look back and I go, ‘Oh, boy. I didn’t have anybody to help guide me.’ And I was lost. And I just found my way on my own.”
Part of finding her way was coming out as a gay woman in the 1990s.
“When you’re gay and you’re successful in this business, your whole team says, ‘Don’t rock the boat. You know, you’re doing fine. You know, we know you’re gay, but, you know, just keep it down’ … And I just thought, you know, what’s equally as important as my career is living my life without shame,” she said.
She added: “The fear is that you lose your career. And it turned out, I did for a while. And three years seemed like forever. It seemed like I was — I didn’t have any money left, I wasn’t getting any jobs. I didn’t have anything. And I thought, ‘I’ll never work again. So I’ll start doing standup.’
She returned to standup. Slowly, people were reminded that she was “a writer and a funny person,” said DeGeneres.
Kate McKinnon, Idris Elba, Diane Keaton, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Dominic West, Bill Hader, Eugene Levy, and Kaitlin Olson also appear in “Finding Dory.” The Disney/Pixar film opens June 17.
Disney is the parent company of both Pixar and ABC News.
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