Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Alum Katherine Heigl Described the Izzie-George Affair as ‘A Ratings Ploy’

Katherine Heigl of Grey’s Anatomy portrayed Dr. Isobel (Izzie) Stevens for almost six seasons from 2005 to 2010. Frequently in storylines with co-star T.R. Knight, who played Izzie’s BFF George O’Malley, Heigl was surprised when writers had the besties take a romantic turn.

While Heigl enjoyed working closely with Knightley, she felt conflicted over the storyline. With George married to Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) at the time, Heigl felt Izzie’s actions were out of character.

T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl of 'Grey's Anatomy'
T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Danny Feld/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star thought the affair was a departure for Izzie

In season 3, the friendship between George and Izzie turned physical after a night of too much alcohol. After confessing his actions to Callie, George embarked on a romantic relationship with Izzie. Heigl didn’t think the plot twist was in line with her character’s values.

“That was kind of a big change for Izzie, wasn’t it, after she was so up on her moral high ground,” Heigl told Vanity Fair in 2007. “They really hurt somebody, and they didn’t seem to be taking a lot of responsibility for it.”

Heigl wanted to remain true to her character and struggled with Izzie’s deviating from her wholesome persona.

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“I have a really hard time with that kind of thing,” the Grey’s Anatomy alum revealed. “I’m maybe a little too black-and-white about it. I don’t really know Izzie very well right now. She’s changed a lot. I’m trying to figure her out and keep her real.”

Katherine Heigl saw the move as a ‘business’ decision

While she didn’t fully agree with the shift between George and Izzie, Heigl realized that Grey’s Anatomy producers had to keep things interesting and hold their spot as a top-rated show.

“It was a ratings ploy,” the Suits actor remarked of the Izzie-George coupling. “It was absolutely something that shocked people – it wasn’t predictable, and people didn’t see it coming. It’s our fourth season; there’s not a lot of spontaneity left.”

Heigl knew the series’ producers and writers needed to continually attract viewers, but she didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the show.

“Business is business, I understand that,” she explained. “But I want there to be some cooperation between the business end and the creative end, so there’s some way of keeping it real.”

T.R. Knight and Katherine Heigl shared mutual admiration on screen and off screen

Heigl revealed she was initially all for the romance between George and Izzie, mainly because it meant more time with Knight.

“I was really excited about it in the beginning,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2010. “I got to work more with my best friend and that’s awesome.”

When viewers weren’t buying in to the love story angle of the two pals, George and Izzie went back to platonic status. Clearly, Knight also held Heigl in high regard and enjoyed their time together on set.

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“A lot of us care way too much what people think,” he told Vanity Fair. “But it’s refreshing to have someone who speaks the kind of truth where your mouth just drops. To her, being up-front and straight with people is paramount. There’s a real freedom to that that I’m still working on, but she’s already got it. It’s intrinsically who she is.”