Katherine Heigl Claims Real Reason for 'Grey's Anatomy' Exit Had Little to Do With Feud Rumors

An unauthorized book about the behind-the-scenes happenings of long-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy is on the way, and the tea that it spills is piping hot. How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey's Anatomy was written by author Lynette Rice, and The Daily Telegraph published a juicy excerpt ahead of the book's Sept. 21 release date. In this excerpt, the truth behind Katherine Heigl's controversial exit came to light. 

Salaries were a point of contention. Heigl did not receive a pay raise like costars Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey, Sandra Oh, and Isaiah Washington. Heigl publicly announced she would not be renegotiating her contract, but she received her salary bump after Washington was fired. "In this town, women who don't just snap and say, 'OK, yessir, yes, ma'am' start to get a reputation for being difficult," Heigl said of the incident in the excerpt. "I've decided it's not worth it to me to be pushed around so much." Heigl's portrayal of Izzie Stevens earned her an Emmy in Grey's Anatomy's second season in 2007, but Heigl removed her name from contention In season 3, claiming that she "did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant" a nomination.

"I thought I was doing the right thing," Heigl explained in How to Save a Life. "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]." However, Heigl expressed some regret over how she handled the incident. "I could have more gracefully said that without going into a private work matter," she mused.  "It was between me and the writers. I ambushed them, and it wasn't very nice or fair."

While the situation earned her the public label of "difficult," her decision to leave Grey's Anatomy was more complicated than that. "I started a family, and it changed everything," Heigl said. "It changed my desire to work full-time. I went on family leave and it changed my whole perspective… that was really the turning point. So before I was due back, I spoke again to Shonda about wanting to leave. Then I waited at home until I was given the formal OK that I was off the show. The rumors that I refused to return were totally untrue." According to Heigl, there was no way for her schedule to be accommodated without impacting the rest of the team negatively. "It wasn't feeling fair to them or the show to ask them to bend around my needs."


Still, Heigl hated the fact that the difficult rumors followed her through her career. "The 'ungrateful' thing bothers me the most," she admitted. "And that is my fault. I allowed myself to be perceived that way. Of course I'm grateful. How can I not be?" However, an anonymous former ABC executive gave a different account of Heigl's exit. "I think [then-ABC network president] Steve McPherson and Shonda [Rhimes] were so fed up with it all, they just said, 'Get her out,'" the source said.