The Redemption of Katherine Heigl

By on Apr 5, 2010 in Tinseltown |

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Katherine Heigl, best known for her award-winning turn as Dr. Isobel Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, has given us several reasons lately to dislike her. Two years ago, she opted to not compete for an Emmy, citing poor material that season on Grey’s. Last year, she griped to David Letterman last year about long days on the set—when apparently it was her movie-promoting schedule that caused the cram. And this year, she abruptly left the show to which she owes everything after finding success as a big-screen A-lister.

Katherine Heigl was actually the reason I started watching Grey’s five years ago, having been a fan of hers from Roswell. But all of those comments and actions alienated me and a lot of other fans. I didn’t even bother considering the possibility that they were taken out of context—that maybe there was another side of the story. But for the most part, there wasn’t.

And remarkably, Heigl practically admits as much in an interview with Michael Ausiello of Entertainment Weekly. She takes full responsibility for those incidents. She understands her mistakes and why she’s perceived as, in Ausiello’s words, an “ungrateful diva.” And she apologizes to her fans in a way that seems humble and sincere.

She apologized for making her gripes with the writers of Grey’s after Season 4 public knowledge, saying, “I ambushed them, and it wasn’t very nice or fair.” She apologized for her comments on Letterman, saying that she didn’t realize at the time that the schedule was compressed to accommodate her press tour. And she apologized for the abrupt end to Izzie’s storyline, explaining that she’s leaving to spend more time with her newly-adopted daughter. “And even though I know I’m disappointing the fans,” she says, “and I know I’m disappointing the writers and my fellow cast members and the crew, I just had to make a choice. I hope I made the right one…. It sucks. You wish you could have it all exactly the way you want it. But that’s not life.”

Her most telling response, however, was when Ausiello asked her about her reputation. “The ungrateful thing bothers me the most. And that is my fault. I allowed myself to be perceived that way because I was being whiny and I was griping and because I made these snarky comments. 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.”

The excerpts above are only a fraction of the entire interview, all of which is an interesting read. I don’t hold any grudges toward her after reading her reflections—I’m a fan of hers again. Of course, the cynical side of me says that she could just be reciting lines provided to her by someone skilled in image rehab. But my intuition says that these words are hers—this is how she really feels.

And I respect her for owning up to her past mistakes. She didn’t try to pawn them off on other people (like Chloë Sevigny did after criticizing the latest season of Big Love). I hope her efforts at atonement don’t go unnoticed. But even if they do, as long as she upholds the humility and gratitude she claims to value, the public will forgive and forget—and focus on her talent.