Katherine Heigl is an Emmy-winning actress known for her work in television and film, including her iconic roles in Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up. But she also has been dogged by a reputation for being difficult to work with over the years. And she recently decided to respond to these accusations.
In an interview Thursday with The Washington Post, Heigl said she took particular exception to being labeled “unprofessional.” She also hinted that those who gave her such a label may simply not have liked what she had to say.
“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,'” Heigl said. “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.”
These rumors put her in a kind of no-win scenario when she tried to rebuild her PR by apologizing, which seemed to backfire on her. “At the time, I was just quickly told to shut the f— up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it,” she revealed. “The more terrified and scared I was of doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong.”
As time went on, the high-profile film offers faded, and Heigl’s anxiety worsened. Things got bad enough for Heigl that she eventually took some time away from acting entirely. This also gave her a chance to work on her mental health.
“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,” she said. “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.”
So, what landed her this “difficult person” reputation to begin with? While there were several alleged clashes with actors and showrunners, the moment that stands out the most is her response to an Emmy nomination for the fourth season of Grey’s Anatomy in 2008.
Heigl had previously won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for the show, and the cast and crew thought she was likely to win again. But in a move that stunned Hollywood, Heigl decided removed herself from consideration altogether. She issued a statement that drew criticism for appearing ungrateful or even being derisive to the writers on her show.
“I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination,” she said in her statement. “In an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention.”
Many of the cast and crew assumed that her statement was a dig at showrunner Shonda Rhimes. This led to increased tensions and accusations that Heigl was a diva, and these accusations have followed her around to this day.
In a post-#MeToo world, however, people are starting to reconsider criticizing actresses for speaking their minds.
For her part, Heigl seems to have made peace with the past, and she’s currently making a career resurgence. Fans will be able to see her in the upcoming Netflix series Firefly Lane on February 3 and in the psychological thriller Fear of Rain, in limited theaters and on-demand on February 12.