‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Katherine Heigl Admits She ‘Didn’t Really Think’ About Cheating Fans out of Izzie’s Farewell

Grey’s Anatomy changed its trajectory after Katherine Heigl left the show after six seasons. After exiting the series as Izzie Stevens, the showrunners had to develop a different storyline for her castmates. Justin Chambers, who played Izzie’s husband, Alex Karev, made the most significant adjustment following Heigl’s departure. 

For some fans, the Knocked Up actor’s decision not to close Izzie’s story still hurts. However, the actor didn’t see any other way for her to leave at that time. 

'Grey's Anatomy' star Katherine Heigl filming a scene on the show.
‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens | Michael Desmond/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

Katherine Heigl said she’s  ‘sorry’ for disappointing ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans

Heigl starred in Grey’s Anatomy from 2005-2010. When she first appeared on the show, her character’s kindness and vulnerability instantly made her a fan favorite. In 2008, the actor received an Emmy for playing Izzie following a solid season 2 story arc. However, Heigl’s film career excelled during her time at Grey’s. Soon, she found herself torn between the show and future movie opportunities. 

By 2009, Heigl didn’t hold back on her feelings about working at Grey’s. According to Entertainment Weekly, the 27 Dresses opted out of the running for an Emmy consideration after stating she didn’t have enough “material.” Additionally, Heigl claimed the show had intense working conditions, including 17-hour shifts. 

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Eventually, Heigl filmed her final episode on Grey’s. In season 6, episode 12, “I Like You So Much Better Naked,” Izzie moves away and agrees to divorce Alex. The heartbreaking ending for Izzie and Alex is something the Killers star didn’t consider until she was done with the show. 

“You’re right,” Heigl told EW of cheating fans out of a proper ending for Izzie. “I didn’t really think that through. [Laughs] They’re right. I’m sorry about that. I kind of feel that way too. But I don’t think we knew how else to do this.”

Katherine Heigl only remembered 1 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ storyline from season 4

Although she regrets how she left Grey’s, Heigl said Izzie’s later storylines affected how she felt about the character. After experiencing the “highlight” of her career with the Emmy win, the actor said she no longer understood Izzie’s purpose on the show. Despite her feedback from Rhimes and the rest of the writers, Heigl said only one scene stands out when thinking of season 4. 

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“The only thing I can really remember is when I saved the dee,” she said. “Shonda was always really great about giving me her backstory and telling me what she’s thinking, [but] on the page sometimes you’re like, “I’m sorry, what? What do you mean she’s saving a deer? Wait, she’s shocking it back to life?! Hold on now!”

The ‘Grey’s’ alum said she would never ‘shake’ Izzie 

Since her exit, several of Heigl’s former co-stars have spoken about her decision to leave the show. While promoting Scandal in 2012, Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter that she developed a strict “no Heigls” policy after her exit. Grey’s star Ellen Pompeo also stated the actor could’ve handled the situation better. 

Heigl shared with EW that she wishes she would’ve left Grey’s more “gracefully.” However, she said Izzie will always be with her in some capacity. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake her. There were some moments when she did or said something silly that maybe I didn’t agree with, but 99 percent of the time, I was really protective of her, and I really loved her, and I was really passionate about playing her. I’m going to miss her. And I’m going to create little stories in my mind about what Izzie went off to do, where she is, and who she keeps in contact with at the hospital.”
Grey’s Anatomy returns to ABC this fall. Heigl currently stars in Netflix’s Firefly Lane.