With a reported 42 million viewers, “The Puppy Episode” became the highest rated episode of Ellen ever, going on to earn multiple Emmy nominations, including one for Dern. But soon after it aired, a backlash followed, and the actress -- along with DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey, who also guest-starred -- eventually found herself blacklisted. In a reunion on The Ellen Show, Dern says she didn’t work for a year in Hollywood after the episode, in large part because many people thought she was gay. “I started getting calls, which was so shocking to me, from friends and colleagues, even gay friends and colleagues, saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’” Dern said on the show, recalling the negative feedback she began receiving soon after saying yes to the part.
Thankfully, Hollywood couldn’t hold her back for long. The year only served as a pause, marking the next wave of her career. Working her way back into the fold, Dern returned to grace with supporting roles in October Sky and Dr. T & the Women, a cameo in Jurassic Park III, and a guest-starring role on The West Wing. Soon after, she added gravitas to Lynch’s Inland Empire and won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Katherine Harris in HBO’s Recount. By 2011, the actress was seemingly back on top, earning critical praise and an Emmy nomination -- ultimately her fifth without a win -- for her starring role on Enlightened. Sadly, the HBO series was short-lived. But Dern persevered.
Following her second Oscar nomination, for 2014’s Wild, the actress is now in the middle of what many are affectionately calling “the Laura Dern-aissance,” thanks to back-to-back scene-stealing roles as Renata Klein on HBO’s Big Little Lies and as the coveted Diane on Twin Peaks: The Return. While playing Diane comes with its own praise and mystique (“Laura Dern is a psyche on fire,” Evan Davis recently proclaimed at Decider), it’s as Renata that Dern truly shines.