Katherine Heigl Admits She 'Ambushed' Grey's Anatomy Writers With Emmy Withdrawal

Katherine Heigl as Izzie Stevens in the locker room on Grey's Anatomy

Katherine Heigl’s tumultuous relationship with Grey’s Anatomy is back in the news, as a new book sheds light on the actress’ 2010 exit from the ABC medical drama, as well as her now-infamous Emmy withdrawal, where Heigl called out the show’s writers for the material her character was given. Along with bombshell accusations about Patrick Dempsey’s on-set behavior and Justin Chambers’ feelings about his controversial exit, the unauthorized book claims that Heigl has since taken ownership of her feud with the writers, admitting that she “ambushed” them with her comments.

An early excerpt from How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy by Lynette Rice, which was obtained by The Daily Telegraph, revisits the 2008 Emmy race — a year after Katherine Heigl won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — when Heigl withdrew her name from consideration, saying at the time, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination.” The action was taken as a clear shot at the writers and, in the new book, Heigl explained her thought process, admitting that she didn’t handle the situation correctly:

I thought I was doing the right thing. And I wanted to be clear that I wasn’t snubbing the Emmys. The night I won was the highlight of my career. I just was afraid that if I said, 'No comment,' it was going to come off like I couldn’t be bothered [to enter the race]. I could have more gracefully said that without going into a private work matter. It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn’t very nice or fair.

Katherine Heigl explained her reasoning at the time as not wanting to take away an opportunity from another deserving actress, but the environment had already been growing toxic between Heigl and her co-workers. In 2007, Heigl announced she wouldn’t be renegotiating her contract after other co-stars received bigger pay raises. And she had a public falling out with Isaiah Washington after he used a gay slur in reference to Heigl’s friend T.R. Knight, which ultimately led to Washington’s exit from the show.

Whatever the reasons, and regardless of who was right or wrong in any of the situations, Katherine Heigl gained a reputation as being “an ungrateful diva,” Lynette Rice writes in her new book. What happened between Shonda Rhimes and Heigl that led Izzie Stevens to leave Grey’s Anatomy in Season 6 isn't clearly revealed in the excerpt, as How to Save a Life tells contradictory stories from the assorted cast and crew. But the reputation Heigl garnered was hard for her to come to terms with:

The ‘ungrateful' thing bothers me the most. And that is my fault. I allowed myself to be perceived that way. So much about living life, to me, is about humility and gratitude. And I’ve tried very hard to have those qualities and be that person, and I’m just so disappointed in myself that I allowed it to slip. Of course I’m grateful. How can I not be?

How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy by Lynette Rice is available now, and Grey’s Anatomy is set to return for Season 18 with a dramatic crossover event on Thursday, September 30, beginning at 8 p.m. ET with Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy following at 9 p.m. on ABC. Check out our 2021 Fall TV Schedule to stay up to date with all of the upcoming premieres.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.