Ellen Pompeo Praises 'Ballsy' Katherine Heigl for Complaining About 'Grey's Anatomy' Working Conditions
By Paige Gawley
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Ellen Pompeo is defending her former co-star, Katherine Heigl. On the latest episode of Pompeo's Tell Me podcast, the 52-year-old actress reflected on Heigl's years-old interview, in which the actress spoke out against the working conditions on Grey's Anatomy.
During a 2009 appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Heigl, who exited her role as Dr. Izzie Stevens in 2010, blasted the medical drama for having a "17-hour" workday, which she called "cruel and mean."
"I remember Heigl said something on a talk show about the insane hours we were working. And she was 100 percent right," Pompeo said. "Had she said that today, she’d be a complete hero."
"But she’s ahead of her time, made a statement about our crazy hours and, of course, let’s slam a woman and call her ungrateful. When the truth is, she's 100 percent honest and it's absolutely correct what she said," she continued. "She was f**king ballsy for saying it. And she was telling the truth. She wasn’t lying."
Pompeo, who serves as a producer and the star of Grey's, said the series' working conditions have improved in the years since Heigl's exit.
"I'm very lucky now with my schedule on Grey's. I get to cut back. And overall I'm happy for the production as a whole, because we have cut back tremendously," she said. "Back in the day, we used to do crazy, crazy hours. That alone will make you insane."
Heigl's 2009 comments, as well as a previous Grey's controversy in which she removed her name from Emmy consideration, left the actress with a reputation for being "difficult," something that caused her a great deal of anxiety.
"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 told The Washington Postin 2021. "... 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. 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."
As for if she'd ever return to the medical drama, Heigl told ET in 2021 that the prospect was probably not in the cards, stating, "I would never say never but it's not likely."