When Katherine Heigl left Grey's Anatomy back in 2010, she spoke out about the often harsh work conditions she faced as the star of a major network show. At the time, there was little public sympathy for her, with even Diane Sawyer telling her during an interview that people didn't feel sorry for her. Over a decade later, things have changed, and Heigl reflected on the controversy as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) prepares to vote on a strike.
Negotiations between IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down recently, as the union fights for better work conditions during film and television production. Several celebrities have already shown support for IATSE, and Heigl joined that chorus on Friday. She recalled how she was criticized for calling out the Grey's Anatomy production for having her work 17-hour days before she left the show.
"The crews I've worked with all these many many years have been just as instrumental in making me who I am as anything else lasting and important in my life. They have been family in that way and I have always and will always continue to support and stand by them," Heigl wrote in part, alongside a gallery of photos of herself with crew members. "Some of you may remember over ten years ago I was very vocal about the absurdity of the working hours crews and actors were being forced into by production. Even Diane Sawyer interviewed me and not so kindly informed me, 'No one feels sorry for you.' I very publicly and for many many years after got my a— kicked for speaking up."
Heigl noted that she let her "public spanking shut me up and shut me down" at the time and retreated from the business. "I let myself be convinced that I was wrong. Very very wrong. That speaking out made me seem ungrateful or precious or as if I were 'biting the hand that fed me,'" Heigl recalled. Today though, she will not allow herself to be silenced.
"With age...that wisdom is knowing not only who you really are but what you will and will not stand for no matter what anyone," Heigl wrote. "So I speak up today and say with zero hesitation or regret...14, 16, 17, 18-hour workdays are NOT safe," she added. "They are NOT healthy. They can not and should NO longer be tolerated."
Heigl, 42, starred as Izzie Stevens on the first five seasons of Grey's Anatomy and left partway through Season 6. In a recent book on the making of the series, How to Save a Life, Heigl explained that many of the rumors about why she left were not true. "I started a family, and it changed everything," Heigl told author Lynette Rice. "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 [creator Shonda Rhimes] 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."