Katherine Heigl was a child star known for Disney films and the teen series Roswell who became a household name playing Dr. Izzie Stevens on the hit medical drama created by Shonda Rhimes, Grey's Anatomy. But during her six seasons starring opposite Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo, her tendency to speak her mind labeled her as "difficult" and led to not only her exit from the show but drama in her career that lasted years. Now that the actress is 42 and has largely moved on from that time in her life, she has opened up in a recent interview with Washington Post on how she feels about everything now.
"I may have said a couple of things you didn't like, but then that escalated to 'she's ungrateful,' then that escalated to 'she's difficult,' and that escalated to 'she's unprofessional,'" the actress told the Post. "What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don't like? Now, I'm 42, and that s--- pisses me off."
The actress really got herself in trouble when she removed herself from consideration at the Emmy Awards the year after winning Best Supporting Actress. At the time she released a statement explaining her decision: "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination, and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention." According to Vanity Fair, in a 2016 interview with Howard Stern, Heigl opened up about her decision and why she wishes she had just "shut up" at the time. She even apologized to Shonda Rhimes after it turned into a scandal with the press speculating that she didn't want to be on the show anymore.
"I wasn't feeling good about my work that season, no," said Heigl. "As an actor, if you want to get nominated [for an Emmy], you have to submit your work. That year, I said I'm not going to submit [anything] because there is nothing I feel good about. . . . I didn't feel good about my performance . . . and there was a part of me that thought, because I had won the year before, that I needed juicy, dramatic, emotional material."
Despite the apology, and the completely logical reasoning for not submitting for the Emmys, things were progressively getting worse for Heigl and her reputation was affected.
"The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it," she explained of the Grey's Anatomy producers whom she was criticized at the time for forcing her to work 17 hour days. "The more terrified and scared I was of doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong."
Not only did the bad press lead to Heigl leaving the popular ABC TV series (which brought on major criticism from viewers and critics), but her movie career started to suffer as well. She got ripped apart for commenting that her Judd Apatow film Knocked Up was "a little sexist" and started to see a decrease in how much she was making from being a movie star in romantic comedy films she also executive produced like Life As We Know It, The Ugly Truth, and One for the Money. She even had a short-lived series on NBC, State of Affairs that just wasn't able to take off. Behind the scenes, she was struggling with anxiety and it would take years for the public to actually move on from believing that she was difficult to work with.
Her husband Josh Kelley actually believes that if any of the drama had happened today, Heigl would have been applauded for speaking up. Even her co-star from 27 Dresses, James Marsen, told ET that he believes she was just wildly misunderstood.
"She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn't back down from letting you know if she feels like she's been wronged in any way," Marsden says. "I've always seen that as just strength of character. I can see how that can get construed as being difficult or ungrateful or whatever. But if you know Katie, it's simply because she has the courage to stand behind something she believes."
The actress refers to the dark time following her exit from Grey's Anatomy "the shunning" and had to reach out for help recovering from the crippling anxiety she was living with as a result of all of the pressure, ultimately taking a break from Hollywood and all of its toxicity.
"I asked my mom and my husband to find me somewhere to go that could help me because I felt like I would rather be dead," said Heigl. "I didn't realize how much anxiety I was living with until I got so bad that I had to really seek help. You can do a lot of inner soul work, but I'm a big fan of Zoloft."
Heigl is currently set to star in the upcoming Netflix series Firefly Lane based on the novel by Kristin Hannah. It follows lifelong best friends (Heigl and Sarah Chalke) and looks like it will be an unforgettable drama series. When asked if she would ever return to Grey's Anatomy like some of her previous co-stars have, Heigl honestly isn't sure, and we can't say we blame her after everything she's been through.
"I think it would just be completely dependent upon the team over there, how they feel about it, and the story," she said.
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