Lily Tomlin explains why she refused to come out on the cover of Time

Lily Tomlin appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on January 15

Lily Tomlin has revealed why she turned down the chance to come out on the cover of Time magazine in 1975.

Appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Tuesday (January 15), Tomlin explained her decision to host DeGeneres, who made history when she featured on the cover of Time in 1997 alongside the words: “Yep, I’m gay.”

“I decided that I just wasn’t going to play their game.”

— Lily Tomlin speaking to Ellen DeGeneres

The Grace and Frankie star said: “It was a hard decision to make, and I fell down on the side of… probably, after what you went through, probably good sense.”

Watch Lily Tomlin talking to Ellen DeGeneres:

Tomlin, who was nominated for an Oscar after starring in her first film, Nashville, in 1975, told DeGeneres it was made clear that she would only be on the cover if she revealed her sexuality.

“I decided that I just wasn’t going to play their game,” she said, adding that she wasn’t ready to come out publicly, and didn’t want it to be her defining feature.

“I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance,” explained the 79-year-old actress, who appeared on DeGeneres’ show with her 9 to 5 co-star Jane Fonda.

A still from Netflix show Grace And Frankie, featuring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda

Lily Tomlin appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with her Grace And Frankie co-star Jane Fonda. (Netflix)

After the revelations, Fonda joked: “If they put me on the cover of Time, I’ll come out.”

The pair also confirmed that they were set to appear in a sequel to 9 to 5 alongside acting and music legend Dolly Parton, with Fonda saying: “We’ve got people writing it.”

Lily Tomlin has explained her coming out journey

The Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning actress said in 2015 that she waited until after her mother died to come out publicly as a lesbian.

Tomlin said: “My mother would have died. Literally. If she’d lived to see me come out.”

The star, who married her partner of 42 years Jane Wagner in 2013, added: “Bless her heart, she was Southern, basically fundamentalist, but she was very witty and sweet and kind and she adored Jane.

“She died 10 years ago. She was 91. So that was always kind of a dilemma for me.”

In a separate interview in the same year, Tomlin said it had long been an accepted fact in the industry that she was a lesbian, even if she hadn’t said it explicitly.

“I wasn’t totally forthcoming. Everybody in the business knew I was gay, and certainly everybody I worked with and everything like that,” she explained.

“I just never had a press conference to announce it.”