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The Real Reason Katherine Heigl Left Grey's Anatomy

Katherine Heigl, otherwise known as Dr. Izzie Stevens on the hit ABC series "Grey's Anatomy," was considered one of the best actresses on the show. She even received an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series in 2007 for the medical drama. Her love with patient Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) had fans constantly reaching for the tissue box. Unfortunately, Heigl left "Grey's Anatomy" in the show's sixth season in 2010, despite her status as a fan favorite.

Years later, she revealed that she could have handled the situation better but doesn't regret leaving the show. The decision, however, led to some backlash from the film industry and fans. Fortunately for her, she's been able to bounce back and continue her career in the industry. Still, fans can't help but wonder what happened to Dr. Izzy Stevens and what might have happened had she had stayed on the show.

Although this wasn't the first nor last time a cast member abruptly left "Grey's Anatomy," Katherine Heigl had her own reasons for departing the show.

Katherine Heigl was branded as 'difficult'

Several factors contributed to Heigl's departure from "Grey's Anatomy." However, the main issue was her lack of fear for speaking her mind without considering the results of her words. The biggest offense happened in the immediate aftermath of her Emmy nomination, asking the Academy to withdraw her nomination.

"I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination, to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention," Heigl said in a statement. "In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials."

As a result, many fans and critics wrote her off as an entitled actress who didn't appreciate the recognition she was given. This, in turn, led Hollywood to brand her as "difficult," a title that is hard to shake. Shortly afterward, Heigl decided to depart "Grey's Anatomy." This wasn't the only incident that leads to Heigl's departure, however. It usually takes more than one blowup for an entire industry to label an actor as "difficult."

She often publicly complained

Katherine Heigl never worked with a filter for her opinions, and she rubbed people the wrong way with her criticism at times. One infamous example came during an appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" in 2009, when she complained about Grey's Anatomy's filming hours, saying, "Our first day back was Wednesday, and it was—I'm going to keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them—a 17-hour day, which I think is cruel and mean" (transcribed via Vulture).

Lettermen responded by asking how long she expects to stay on the show under those conditions, to which she replied, "Yeah, that's what I keep wondering." Heigl added that she had two years left on her contract but wanted to "live a little." This incident only added fuel to the fire Heigl already started for herself, supporting the idea that she was a difficult coworker for the rest of the cast and crew. This could have been the straw that broke the camel's back, considering she left the show the next year, despite having two left on her contract.

Heigl's ego started to grow

When Heigl started working on the set of "Grey's Anatomy," no one knew how big her role would become. The same could be said about her ego, which inflated in direct proportion with her star power. She would use this fame to leverage herself toward other significant roles. Eventually, she landed leading parts in two notable blockbusters — 2007's "Knocked Up" and 2008's "27 Dresses" — turning her into a well-known celebrity. Unfortunately for Heigl, she also starred in a handful of flops following her departure from "Grey's Anatomy," including "Killers," "New Year's Eve," and "One for the Money."

Heigl floated the idea of rejoining the cast of "Grey's Anatomy," but the show's producer, Shonda Rhimes, made it clear that the interest was not mutual. "It was nice to hear her appreciating the show," Rhimes told TV Guide in March 2012. "We are on a track we have been planning, and the idea of changing that track is not something we are interested in right now."

Heigl would star in a handful of new movies and TV shows since all of this, including "Firefly Lane" and "Woodhull," both of which she also executive produced. In the end, Heigl would admit to not being upset about how the situation unfolded at all, telling People, "I don't regret leaving 'Grey's Anatomy' — I did the right thing for me and my family." It can be hard to fix an image like the one she created for herself, but it sounds like Katherine Heigl landed on her feet.