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What did Katherine Heigl say about Grey's Anatomy? Tense relationship with the show and Shonda Rhimes explained

The Firefly Lane actress played Izzie Stevens for six seasons

Katherine Heigl at NBCUniversal Upfront in New York City on Monday, May 14, 2018
Beatriz Colon
Beatriz Colon - New York
New York WriterNew York
7 June 2023
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Years after being branded as "difficult" following her sudden exit from Grey's Anatomy, Katherine Heigl is looking back at the scandal with grace and maturity.

The actress, 43, recently reunited with her Grey's co-star Ellen Pompeo – the Meredith Grey to her Izzie Stevens – and opened up about her highly-publicized, and criticized, opinions on the long running Shonda Rhimes series.

The star appeared in the medical drama for over 100 episodes from its inaugural season in 2005 until halfway to its sixth in 2010, when she left the series halfway through filming the sixth season.

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However, her relationship with the show and its creator began to sour in 2008.

The year prior, Katherine had won an Emmy for her performance on Grey's, but made headlines ahead of the following year's awards when she decided not to submit her performance for consideration.

MORE: The real reason Firefly Lane's Katherine Heigl left Hollywood with husband and three kids

"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," she told Howard Stern in 2016, adding: "At the time, I didn't think anyone would notice… I just quietly didn't submit and then it became a story."

Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens© Getty
Katherine as Izzie

Shortly before exiting the show in 2010, Katherine once again came under fire when she called out the intense work hours required for the Grey's cast and crew.

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During a 2009 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, she told the host: "I'm gonna keep saying this 'cause I hope it embarrasses them," revealing they were working up to 17 hours a day, which she described as being "cruel and mean."

Katherine Heigl poses in the pressroom with her Emmy during the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on September 16, 2007 in Los Angeles, California© Getty
The actress with her Emmy in 2007

Five years later in 2014, Shonda went viral for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter promoting her other hit show, Scandal. When discussing the smooth production and tight-knit cast, she shocked fans when she said: "There are no Heigls in this situation," maintaining she has a "no assholes policy," and that: "I don't put up with [expletive] or nasty people. I don't have time for it."

Justin Chambers, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, and Ellen Pompeo on Grey's Anatomy© Getty
OG Grey's stars Justin Chambers and Sandra Oh with Ellen and Katherine

Katherine responded to her comments via Extra, telling Mario Lopez: "I am sorry that she feels that way and I wish her nothing but greatness and I have nothing negative to say about [her]. I'm a big fan of her work," and that: "I watch Scandal every week and so I'm sorry she's left with such a crappy impression of me. I wish I could do something to change that. Maybe I will be able to someday."

In the aforementioned 2016 interview with Howard Stern, Katherine revealed she apologized to Shonda, sharing that she told the famous producer: "That wasn't cool, and I should not have said that. And I shouldn't have said anything publicly."

Alex and Izzie laughing together in Grey's Anatomy. © Getty
The star as Izzie with on-screen love interest Alex, played by Justin

The Firefly Lane actress opened up again about the controversies in her Actors on Actors feature on Variety, where, reuniting on-screen with Ellen, she said: "I got on my soapbox and I had some things to say, and I felt really passionate about this stuff," adding: "I felt so strongly that I also got a megaphone out on my soapbox. There was no part of me that imagined a bad reaction."

Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke in Firefly Lane season two
She now co-stars with Sarah Chalke on Firefly Lane

"It's really disconcerting when you feel like you have really displeased everybody. It was not my intention to do so, but I had some things to say, and I didn’t think I was going to get such a strong reaction," she said.

She admitted her approach to her concerns with Grey's was "naïve," and that ultimately: "I know there's a better way to deal with those things than I did."

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