It's no secret that the public seems to have something against Katherine Heigl. This has caused many to wonder why NBC would green-light a show, “State of Affairs,” marketed solely on the star power of an actress whose name “Child’s Play” villain Chucky once called his favorite curse word. To find the answer to that question, perhaps it’s worth taking a look at how the actress became so hated in the first place.
“State of Affairs” will mark Heigl’s return to TV after leaving ABC's “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2010. The actress took a break from the Hollywood life to raise her two children on her ranch in Utah with husband Josh Kelley. The decision to leave Los Angeles and go someplace remote was born of an attitude she adopted at a young age to reject a lot of the pressure and public judgment that comes with the Hollywood scene. In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Heigl described how reaching fame at a young age caused her childhood friends to turn on her.
"As soon as I started coming into my own and getting a little self-confidence, my closest girlfriends turned on me," she said. “I didn't know what I was doing wrong. So I became a people pleaser, always trying to get people to like me."
It wasn’t long after that, according to her, that she decided that the only way to live in the world of fame was to stop pandering and reaffirm what it is she felt defined her. For Heigl, that seemed to be maintaining the integrity of her work, and that got her into trouble.
Her star started to dim after it became public knowledge that she was no longer interested in her role as Dr. Izzie Stevens on “Grey’s.” In a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair, the actress spoke out against her character’s story line, in which Stevens had an affair with Dr. George O’Malley (T.R. Knight).
“That was kind of a big change for Izzie, wasn’t it, after she was so up on her moral high ground,” she told the outlet bluntly at the time. “They really hurt somebody, and they didn’t seem to be taking a lot of responsibility for it. I have a really hard time with that kind of thing. I’m maybe a little too black-and-white about it. I don’t really know Izzie very well right now. She’s changed a lot. I’m trying to figure her out and keep her real.”
Apparently, the actress had so much trouble reconciling herself with the direction her character was going that rumors started to circulate that she wanted out of her contract with the show in favor of pursuing film roles. According to the New York Times, after winning the Emmy for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series” in 2007, she withdrew her name from consideration in 2008.
“I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention,” she said in a statement at the time. “In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”
Fans took this as an insult against the wildly popular medical drama. Many were quick to note that the Emmy controversy wasn’t the first time Heigl railed against a project that she was at the center of. In that same Vanity Fair interview, where she spoke against the "Grey's Anatomy" writers, she trashed the 2007 movie “Knocked Up,” which also has a massive fan base and can be credited with bringing Heigl’s fame to new heights. She called the movie "a little sexist."
“It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days,” she said. “I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”
With all of this controversy surrounding the actress, it was hard for her to transition away from “Grey’s” (when she finally did leave in 2010) to feature films. Fans care more about the integrity of a show’s cast than they do about one actress’ personal and moral struggles. As a result, Heigl’s career was marred with rumors that she was difficult to work with.
Now that she’s making a return to TV, she’s been forced to address this negative image of herself head-on. In a recent Q&A on Facebook to promote "State of Affairs," Heigl was asked about the rumors that she’s “difficult to work with.”
“Yeah I've heard those too ... honestly I don't think I am ... nothing makes me more uncomfortable than confrontation or hurting someone's feelings and I would never, ever actively do so on purpose. Of course just like any human being I've made mistakes and unwittingly or carelessly spoken or acted but I always try to make any wrong right. That doesn't mean I won't stand up for myself by drawing boundaries and asking to be treated kindly and respectfully but I don't do that with any rude or unkind intentions, just with the same strength and honesty I think every one of us is entitled to.”
Prior to that, she was asked a similar question at a press event about her and her mother/business partner, Nancy Heigl, being hard to work with:
“I can only say that I certainly don’t see myself as being difficult. I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly. If I have ever disappointed somebody, it was not intentional.”
With such a negative sting on Heigl’s career, it’s a bit of a surprise that NBC would want to focus a show around her. “State of Affairs” features the actress as CIA officer Charleston “Charlie” Tucker. She is the president’s daily briefer who is responsible for identifying and stopping the most dangerous terrorist threats. The network seems to be banking on the idea that Heigl’s star power, while positive or negative, is enough to get people watching.
The show is a high-stakes political thriller in the same vein as “Homeland.” However, according to the Hollywood Reporter, the show leans heavily on Heigl’s character carrying the show but falls flat in that regard. Still, other critics seem to think that, while messy, the pilot episode holds potential to be a top contender in an otherwise floundering pilot season. According to the Daily Beast, the show is already commanding the most expensive commercial ad time of any new show this season.
Those who are curious can tune in to the “State of Affairs” premiere on Monday, Nov. 17, at 10/9c on NBC.