Former Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl made another television comeback with Firefly Lane, a new drama Netflix posted on Feb. 3. However, her 2010 departure from the beloved ABC medical drama still looms large over her career. In a January Washington Post profile, Heigl revealed shocking details about her mental state at the time she faced mounting criticism for her decisions. Her husband, Josh Kelley, believes Heigl would have faced an entirely different response if she made the same moves today.
Heigl's series of controversies started when she balled her 2007 hit Knocked Up "a little sexist." Her departure from Grey's also came after a series of moves that were perceived as mishaps at the time. She asked her name to be withdrawn from the Emmys race in 2008 and publicly complained about a 17-hour workday on the show. These made Heigl seem like a "difficult" star. "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," Heigl recalled in her Post interview. "The more terrified and scared I was of doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong."
Kelley, who shares three children with Heigl, said she would "be a hero" today. James Marsden, who starred in 27 Dresses with Heigl, noted that the actress has "very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn't back down from letting you know if she feels like she's been wronged in any way." Marsden added, "I've always seen that as just strength of character. I can see how that can get construed as being difficult or ungrateful or whatever. But if you know Katie, it's simply because she has the courage to stand behind something she believes."
Heigl believes if she continued making hits after she left Grey's, no one would have stopped hiring her. The trouble was that after 2010, her movies started to fail. Killers, Life as We Know It, and One for the Money didn't make as much as her hits did. She attempted television comebacks with State of Affairs and Doubt, but those shows only lasted one season each. She later appeared in the last two seasons of Suits after Meghan Markle left. Firefly Lane, which hits Netflix on Feb. 3, is her first big project since Suits ended. She also stars in the VOD thriller Fear of Rain, which comes out on Feb. 12.
"You can be the most awful, difficult, horrible person on the planet, but if you're making them money, they're going to keep hiring you," Heigl told the Post. "I knew that whatever they felt I had done that was so awful, they would overlook it if I made them money — but then my films started to make not quite as much money."
Heigl also struggled with anxiety, which spiked in 2015. She began taking medication a year after her son Joshua Jr. was born and started going to a therapist. "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 recalled. "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."
Today, Heigl lives on a ranch in Utah with her family and is in a much better place. "I've grown into accepting that ambition is not a dirty word and that it doesn't make me less of a feminine, loving, nurturing woman to be ambitious and have big dreams and big goals," she told the Post. "It's easier to be happy because I have a little more gentleness for myself."