Exclusive: Katherine Heigl takes 'Grey's Anatomy' leave of absence

Katherine-Heigl_lKatherine Heigl won’t have to worry about putting in long hours on the Grey’s Anatomy set for much longer. Sources confirm to me exclusively that the actress is taking a five-episode hiatus from the ABC drama to go shoot the Greg Berlanti-directed romantic comedy Life as We Know It.

ABC and Grey’s producers have accommodated Heigl’s busy film schedule before, but this is the first time they have given her permission to leave the show for an extended period of time. I’m told Heigl’s absence will be explained on screen, although it’s not clear what prompts Izzie to take off. (Marital trouble with Alex? A trip home to see mom? A Denny sighting in the Caribbean?)

The fact that Heigl was granted such a lengthy leave of absence is surprising in light of the public tongue-lashing ABC president Stephen McPherson gave her last month for complaining about a 17-hour work day. Also, Heigl’s departure — which starts this month and will kick in on screen around November — will almost certainly overlap with co-star Ellen Pompeo’s maternity leave. Translation: Grey’s will be without Izzie and Meredith at the same time!

Of course, Grey’s boss Shonda Rhimes warned me over the summer that change would be in the air this season. ”Eventually, everybody is going to leave the show,” admitted the exec, citing T.R. Knight’s exit and the temporary loss of Pompeo. ”So we’re looking at [ways] we can mess with the structure now…. Season 6 is about finding the longevity of the show and figuring out if there is a future for this show beyond these characters.”

Not so coincidentally, Grey’s recently announced it was adding three new doctors to its rotation: Nora Zehetner, Robert Baker, and Jesse Williams are joining the cast as recurring residents/ medical professionals.

Thoughts? Worried you won’t recognize Seattle Grace this season without George, Mer, and Izzie? Or are you psyched that this probably means more screen time for your other favorites? Sound off below!

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  • Bradley

    Good! I wish Shonda would have just killed her off. While her performance the latter half of the season was stellar, I’m sick of her off screen behavior. It has truly begun to color my perception of the character of Izzie…

    • Chris

      I totally agree!!! Show us more Derek, Meredith (when she returns from leave), Cristina, Owen and Bailey and I will be a HAPPY PERSON!!! I will still be TUNED IN!!!!

    • Tarc

      What ‘off-screen behavior’? Being smart, talented and pretty while occasionally showing all three things? Being honest and telling the truth? God forbid our actresses have a brain and actually ‘say’ something worth hearing.

      • Bradley

        I agree that she is a smart, talented, and beautiful. I also think that she is ungrateful and obnoxious. Complaining about the hours she has to put in when she is part of an ensemble of people doing the same thing is just gross. That, in addition to the way she seems to mildly denigrate every role she plays when she’s interviewed, smacks of an utter lack of humility.

      • PM

        Yeah, but she can try to be smart, talented and pretty without biting the hands that feed her.

      • Aaron

        She was joking when she said that on Letterman it was hardly a complaint. Ridiculous to even suggest it. How has she denigrated ever role she has played? By having an opinion? That is ridiculous. She is the exact opposite to what you describe – humble, down to earth and honest. Also the media has twisted everything this poor woman has said into a negative context just for cheap headlines. The fact is people hear what they want to hear and conveniently ignore everything else. She can praise movies, filming and everything 10000 times but if she actually says something that can even be construed as remotely negative – people pounce on it. Personally I think it stinks. If she were male she would be lauded for being honest and a leader instead of being labelled as a diva and an ingrate.

      • Tarc

        Aaron is exactly on point: it’s very clear that if you actually see (or hear) these so-called ‘incidents’, they are nothing of the sort. I realize that a lot of people aren’t to bright, but it’s tough not to call out people that are too stupid to understand sarcasm and dry humor. As many others have pointed out, even if Heigl’s comments were literal, there isn’t a man alive that would be crucified (like Heigls is) for saying the same thing a hundred times. This whole thing is a issue fabricated by the media ooking to make a headline, and perpetuated by a bunch of jealous parrots. Ugh.

      • sdm

        Aaron & Tarc, you are right…I also think Shondra Rimes has a lot to do with it too, she’s just trying for a little pay back because Hiegl defended T.R. during Isaihgate.

      • Gwen

        Being a rude, ungrateful, whiny snot. She’s a good actress and I like Izzie, but Heigl herself is a big-mouth twit.

      • Ashley

        Shut-up, she is such a baby! If she doesnt like 17 hour work days or the writing is not good enough for her then why do you keep going back? I’m starting to really dislike her.

      • hurleyhee

        I agree that people have taken the things she has said way too personally. It’s almost like everyone in show business feels they are entitled to have their ego stroked with constant praise. Hollywood interviews are so polished, careful, and Boring because nobody has the guts to say anything even close to what they really think for fear of the kind of reprisals Heigel has endured. Saying that it was “hard to love” a movie she was in is an extremely mild statement and nowhere near “bashing” as people have characterized it, and she was clearly joking about the 17 hour workday. Although, she probably could have done without the whole explanation for withdrawing herself for Emmy consideration, I think Hollywood insiders and the general public need to seriously grow some thicker skin.

      • evilpride21

        im sorry she shouldn’t be complaining about a 17 hour workday. a lot of us put in a lot more than that. since she got this other film carrer she has been really horrible to grey’s and its getting annoying. i love izzie she is one of my favorite characters but really i feel like Heigl is getting ridicuouls and ruining the character for me

    • Bakerac

      i miss Izzie!!!! she has to come back.

      and the writers have got to get cristina a cardio god so she can thrive!

  • Dennis

    This is very accommodating of ABC! Berlanti does buisness with ABC and the fact that one of ABC’s stars will be starring in a feature film by one of ABC’s prized producers, is wonderful news. This is great synergy at work, people!

  • Day

    I’m not too worried about it only because the cast is currently so bloated. Last seasons started off rough and ended great. This season may have its problems without Mer & Izzie, but I think they’re return will just help pick up the pace of the show. As for the future, I don’t really see this show as successful without the original interns. I don’t understand why they would push on without the main cast. Sometimes you just need to take a great show for what it is and end on a great note. No need to eventually change the face of the show to see how long you can go.

    • Sweet Sue

      Am I the only person, along with my husband to remember that Izzie DIED at the end of last season?? What show did I miss that brought her back from the dead?

      • ALISON

        she didn’t die @ the end of last season..it was left up in the air..

      • BC

        the last season did not show her dying. It showed her and George but does not show which one died.

      • trsquared

        I thought Izzie died too. What’s up with that? Are we going to have to endure her ghost like we did with Denny?

      • PM

        Wishful thinking?

      • RJ

        It was not clarified whether she lives or dies…. Its called a cliff-hanger…

    • DJ

      i totally agree, i think that if the original cast is planning on leaving the show, then end it. would rather see it end on a good note as well rather than see it go down like ER. didn’t really care for that show after all the originals left.

      • jenn

        The best shows leave you wanting more. Shonda seems to want to run this show further into the ground so she’ll always have a paycheck and profit from twenty seasons on dvd. Gross. Hate Shonda, hate Katherine, hate Grey’s. It used to be good. Not anymore, not for a long time.

    • Debbie

      They either need to keep the main cast of characters or dump the show all together. I’m not as anxious to see the new season as I was past seasons. Hope it gets better. I do think it would be good to give Izzie a permanent cast off & keep George.

  • Sina

    I won’t miss her in those episodes. Finally a break from the Izzie saga.

    • Jaime

      I agree! Though, not like many who whine because of her off-screen honesty (call it complaining, call it whatever — a 17-hr WAITING/working day is SEVENTEEN HOURS!) Izzie needs a break…

      • jen

        honestly, it’s a bit ironic considering the character she portrays is said to regularly work those hours and worse.

        but still, no, you don’t get to complain on camera about “poor me and my long work day”. it was only a half joke- the kind of statement that is cloaked as a joke so that the speaker has a defense when they are called out for the BS.

  • Bobbi

    I really like the Izzie Stevens character and plotline, but I’ve had it with Heigel. Write her out permanently and let’s move on. If she doesn’t want to be there, which she obviously doesn’t, accommodate her.

    • Krizia

      I agree with Bobbi. Get rid of Heigl. It really seems like she doesn’t want to be there anyway, and when it looked like they were going to kick her out she got nervous. I say they get rid of her character during the hiatus and she doesn’t come back. The show will be better without her.

      • Debbie

        Just because you don’t like her, that’s not the consensus. Her latest movie was a hit, and Izzie and Alex have a huge fan base. The show would actually suffer quite a bit if she left.

      • Aaron

        Oh that is ridiculous. She got nervous? Of what exactly…being the worlds 5th highest paid MOVIE actress? She makes more in one movie than an entire season of Grey’s. She has 4 movies in the pipeline already. Yeah I bet she is terrified. What you seem to forget is even if she wanted to leave, ABC will not let her. She is contracted to them and they know she is their biggest star. Don’t believe it? Look at the reaction this has generated alone. She gets more publicity for the show than the entire cast combined.

    • Tarc

      If Heigl did not want to be there, there is no real doubt that she could get out of her contract. As Aaron pointed out, she makes peanuts doing a season of Greys compared to a movie (and more if it’s through her production company). Her film and producing career is booming, exactly what I expect from such a smart & talented lady.

  • james

    If shondra rimes had some forethought she wouldn’t have treated TR KNIGHT as badly as she did and it would be one less character to lose.

  • jpgilmore

    this season is going to suck , ellen pompeo wont be for some episode and now Heigl , i hate her as a person but izzie is an important character too and T.R is out , of the five interns we’ve always seen there’s only two now and honestly Karev is not as good as the others so :S:S:S this season sucks!!

    • evilpride21

      karev is my favorite character. please dont bash him

  • Lynn

    I’ll miss Izzie! I was really looking forward to Alex & Izzie this season. Hopefully it won’t be an extended leave.

    • Debbie

      Me too! I want Alex and Izzie to finally have a happy and ghost-free season!

      • guest

        Me too! They totally earned a happy ending!!!

  • Sandra

    To me the most interesting characters on that show are Bailey, Torres, Christina, Chief and Mcsteamy! Meredith is so boring and blah character, she wouldn’t be missed too much if they let her go! I’ll miss George greatly as for Izzie don’t care if she stays or leave! This show has great potential to be long on air!

    • jay

      i totally agree…i only really watch for callie, bailey, sloan, and christina…all the others either bore me or are overly dramatic

    • Joke

      SO TRUE! ‘old’Izzie is cool IMO but the Denny thing bored me so now I don’t like her anymore.
      I only watch for Bailey and the Chief. So if there will be more of those 2 (or some past/family history on Mark&Derek(+ Addison? She was a big part of his life) or Meredith)
      Callie is cool as well but I don’t like all the messing with her in season 5, that and the Arizona thing just didn’t seem real to me

  • Rosa

    Alex and Izzie were my reason for tuning in. Oh well, I hear Fringe is good.

  • Brian

    Cancel this show already. It’s gone way off track and into the ether!

  • Jack

    Good, more Callie and Arizona time!

  • Anne

    Izzie were my reason for tuning in.
    no Izzie no Greys!! and I LOVE Katherine Heigl is the best!!!!!!!!

  • Vicki

    Excellent. More time for Bailey, Christina & Owen. Bring it.

    • G.R.

      Agreed! Granted, I’m going to miss George very much; but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing less of Izzie and Meredith if it means that Yang, Bailey, and Owen (and Alex and Callie, for that matter) might get more face time. (Not to mention the possibility of getting to see more of Derek solo — as his own man rather than strictly in terms of how he relates to Mer.)

      • Debbie

        I agree…give Derek a new love interest but not a Dr. or intern.

      • Joke

        Let Derek be just Derek for a while. Up until now he always had a woman by his side. Either his mom/sisters, his wife, his mistress (for me Meredith will always be the mistress) or his girlfriend (anyone remember Rose?)
        Now let him be Derek for a while instead of part of AddisonandDerek or MeredithandDerek or Mommy’s boy

    • evilpride21

      more time for mcsteamy and lexie – love them

  • Mandy

    By exclusive you mean posting something was on her website like a month ago saying she off to shoot the movie in September.

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