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Grey's Anatomy: Katherine Heigl Worked With That Infamous Deer A Second Time

Remember that deer scene from Season 4 of "Grey's Anatomy?" So does Katherine Heigl, who, as Dr. Izzie Stevens, had to ground this totally ridiculous moment — and as it turns out, she stayed in touch with the deer. Kind of.

For Variety's Actors on Actors series, the outlet reunited Heigl and Ellen Pompeo, two of the original interns from "Grey's" who have bought moved on to other projects (Heigl left the series in 2010, and Pompeo just exited in 2023, though she's still an executive producer, provides voiceovers, and occasionally reappears). When Pompeo, laughing about how ridiculous the series could be sometimes, brought up the deer, Heigl revealed something pretty fascinating.

Asked if she remembered the deer, Heigl responded, "Yes, yes. And I worked with that deer again years later. I'm not kidding." Pompeo, understandably, couldn't believe this, and Heigl continued, "I'm not exaggerating! I worked with that deer years later in a different show I was doing. I'm like, "I know that deer. I saved that deer on 'Grey's Anatomy.'"

"You knew for sure it was the same deer?" Pompeo asked. At this point, Heigl owns up — no, she didn't know immediately, but it was just a perfect coincidence: "No, they told me. But it would be amazing if I had recognized the deer."

Dealing with a deer wasn't the only gross thing that Heigl and Pompeo remembered about Grey's Anatomy

After Pompeo brings up the fact that a lion was once featured on "Grey's Anatomy" as well — though that was after Heigl's time — the two reminisced about the other animal-related part of their job, and it sounds incredibly gross.

When Pompeo brings up "running cow bowel," Heigl asks her to explain, and the two are off to the races. "This is terrible," Pompeo recalled. "And [Heigl] would always advocate and try to speak up, but we used a lot of real animal parts in the surgeries back in the day. After hours and hours under the lights, it starts to smell terrible. You're wearing a mask, so that helps, but it's just not the most pleasant experience. Your feet are tired, and you're staring at this cow heart and bowel."

Even more disturbingly, Heigl said that at some point, the smell and experience of working with a real cow bowel just... stopped affecting any of them. "I just remember by, I want to say Season 2, we'd become so desensitized to it, we'd be standing on our marks eating ramen over the cow intestines," Heigl replied. "We just stopped caring. That's when you're like, 'Things have gone too far.'"

Katherine Heigl's deer scene was the start of her issues on Grey's Anatomy

Longtime fans of "Grey's Anatomy" know that the show went too far plenty of times, and to Heigl's credit, she spoke up over Izzie's deer doctoring... which led to repeated issues between her and showrunner Shonda Rhimes. Ultimately, after the deer thing and a lengthly plotline where Izzie has an affair with the ghost of her fiancé Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Heigl, who won an Emmy for the show's second season in 2007, removed herself from awards consideration for Season 4, saying she wasn't given material that merited a potential nomination this time around.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly on the heels of her eventual exit from "Grey's," Heigl even said, at the time, that she could have been more graceful with her statement. That said, she addressed the deer thing head-on. Asked about a memorable moment from Season 4, Heigl was blunt: "The only thing I can really remember is when I saved the deer. Shonda was always really great about giving me her backstory and telling me what she's thinking, [but] on the page sometimes you're like, 'I'm sorry, what? What do you mean she's saving a deer? Wait, she's shocking it back to life?! Hold on now!'"

Katherine Heigl has some regrets about that time — but also felt like she didn't have full agency

While Heigl does stand by what she said about the end of her tenure on "Grey's Anatomy," as she told Pompeo, she has some misgivings about how it unfolded... in terms of how it affected her image. Between that incident and her comments about Judd Apatow's "Knocked Up," Heigl was branded as "difficult" throughout Hollywood for years, and it really affected her as a younger actress.

"It's really disconcerting when you feel like you have really displeased everybody," Heigl admitted to her friend and former co-star. "It was not my intention to do so, but I had some things to say, and I didn't think I was going to get such a strong reaction. I was in my late 20s. It took me until probably my mid- to late-30s to really get back to tuning out all of the noise and going, 'But who are you? Are you this bad person? Are you ungrateful? Are you unprofessional? Are you difficult?'" Heigl went on to say that she did truly believe the bad things that circulated about her.

"They didn't like me. Oh, well. What are you going to do?" Heigl asked, rhetorically. Pompeo had a possible explanation, though: "You're too hot, Heigl."