‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Why Katherine Heigl Will Never Come Back to the Show

When Grey’s Anatomy first ran on television, Katherine Heigl was an integral part of the show. She featured prominently in several storylines, and her character’s quirky personality provided balance to the cast. The role pushed her into the spotlight and made Heigl one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood. So when she left the show in 2010, many were shocked and confused by the move. What happened, and will she ever return to the show? Here’s the story.

Why did Katherine Heigl leave ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’

Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl | Ian Watson/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In 2007, Heigl’s performance on Grey’s Anatomy won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. However, when she was nominated for the award again the next year, she decided to withdraw her name. The decision angered the shows producers, writers, and fans, beginning a general feeling of resentment toward Heigl. Why was everyone so upset? The statement Heigl gave to the press regarding her withdrawal put Grey’s Anatomy in a less than positive light.  According to the New York Times, the statement read:

“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. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”

Understandably, many took offense at the idea that she wasn’t given adequate material to work with in her role, especially the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes. Heigl later tried to explain her thought process in an interview with Howard Stern. “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,” Heigl said. 

She also explained how she tried to apologize to Rhimes. “I went in because I was really embarrassed,” Heigl said. “So I went in to Shonda and said, ‘I’m so sorry. That wasn’t cool, and I should not have said that.’ And I shouldn’t have said anything publicly. But at the time, I didn’t think anyone would notice … I just quietly didn’t submit and then it became a story, and I felt I was obligated to make my statement, and … ‘Shut up, Katie.'”

Rhimes was not impressed with Heigl’s apology. She told Oprah Winfrey: “On some level, it stung and on some level I was not surprised. When people show you who they are, believe them.”

How the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ drama caused Katherine Heigl to seek therapy

After the disagreement over the Emmys, things only became worse for Heigl. Eventually, she ended up leaving the show in 2010, among rumors that she was difficult to work with. Rhimes even used her name, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, to refer to actors who cause problems on set. While discussing her work on Scandal, Rhimes stated: “There are no Heigls in this situation.” She then added that she has a new “no a**holes policy,” and that she now refuses to work with “nasty people.”

The negative attention was too much for Heigl. She wasn’t able to sleep and found herself tip-toeing around her co-workers, afraid of being seen as difficult. She told Stern that in order to be able to cope with the situation and get past it, she sought out therapy. She found it immensely helpful and was eventually able to come to terms with the situation. 

Would Katherine Heigl ever return to ‘Grey’s Anatomy?’

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Things became a little awkward when Heigl was asked recently by Entertainment Tonight if she would ever return to Grey Anatomy. It took her a few moments of “ums” before she was able to decide how to word her answer. 

“I haven’t [thought about Izzie] in years.” Heigl said. “I don’t know. I don’t know if I would or if I wouldn’t. I almost feel like that would almost be distracting again to, sort of, what they’ve done with that show in the seven years since I left… and what that’s become and what it is to the fans now. It must feel like it would just be kind of like, ‘Yeah, we already let that go… why are you here?'”

At this point, things are still just too tense between Heigl and the show’s creators for her to ever return. It’s unlikely that Izzie will ever make a comeback. But as Heigl said, Grey’s Anatomy has moved on without her, and at this point, it would just be weird if she were to return- no matter how much some fans loved her at the beginning of the show