Katherine Heigl reflects on being labeled as ‘difficult’ earlier in her career

Katherine Heigl has hit back at the career-blighting claims she is ‘ungrateful’ and ‘difficult’, insisting that she has been falsely portrayed as ‘unprofessional’ by people who ‘didn’t like her opinions’. 

The 42-year-old’s once-successful film and TV career has long been overshadowed by reports about her behavior, and in recent years her on-screen success has taken something of a nosedive – leaving her suffering from such bad anxiety that she reached a point where she ‘felt like she’d rather be dead’. 

However Heigl is resolute in her claims that any allegations about her bad behavior have come as a result of misunderstandings, telling the Washington Post: ‘I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to “she’s ungrateful,” then that escalated to “she’s difficult,” and that escalated to “she’s unprofessional.”‘  

Not difficult: Katherine Heigl is opening up about the perception that she is 'difficult' to work with in a wide-ranging new interview

Not difficult: Katherine Heigl is opening up about the perception that she is 'difficult' to work with in a wide-ranging new interview

Not difficult: Katherine Heigl is opening up about the perception that she is ‘difficult’ to work with in a wide-ranging new interview

Controversy: Heigl, now 42, skyrocketed to global fame while playing the role of Izzie Stephens in Grey's Anatomy from 2005 to 2010

Controversy: Heigl, now 42, skyrocketed to global fame while playing the role of Izzie Stephens in Grey's Anatomy from 2005 to 2010

Controversy: Heigl, now 42, skyrocketed to global fame while playing the role of Izzie Stephens in Grey’s Anatomy from 2005 to 2010

‘What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don’t like? Now, I’m 42, and that s**t pisses me off,’ she added. 

Heigl has faced controversy after controversy throughout her career – which began with small movie roles in the mid-90s – many of which were sparked by comments that she herself made. 

While playing the role of Dr. Izzie Stephens in the hit ABC series Grey’s Anatomy, the actress – who has three children – prompted outrage when she refused to put herself forward for an Emmy Award in 2008, claiming that she was not ‘given the material to warrant a nomination’. 

Then in 2009, during an appearance on David Letterman, she slammed the show’s producers for making the cast work a 17-hour day, branding them ‘cruel and mean’. 

‘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,’ she said.   

Escalated: 'I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to "she’s ungrateful," then that escalated to "she’s difficult," and that escalated to ‘she’s unprofessional,"' Heigl said

Escalated: 'I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to "she’s ungrateful," then that escalated to "she’s difficult," and that escalated to ‘she’s unprofessional,"' Heigl said

Escalated: ‘I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to “she’s ungrateful,” then that escalated to “she’s difficult,” and that escalated to ‘she’s unprofessional,”‘ Heigl said

Sorry: The actress added that she was, 'quickly told to shut the f— up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it'; seen in 2008

Sorry: The actress added that she was, 'quickly told to shut the f— up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it'; seen in 2008

Sorry: The actress added that she was, ‘quickly told to shut the f— up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it’; seen in 2008

Heigl left the show the following year in order to pursue movie roles, however after scoring a few big hits with comedies like Knocked Up, which she criticized as being ‘a little sexist’, and 27 Dresses, her other on-screen projects underperformed, if not totally flopped, at the box office.   

She also struggled to escape her negative reputation – which even saw her labeled in some forums as ‘the most hatred actress in Hollywood’ – and she admits that the criticism caused her to trip herself up more and more. 

‘The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it, she explained. ‘The more terrified and scared I was of doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong.’ 

Initially, the rumors and gossip about Heigl being ‘difficult’ to work with didn’t affect her career, with the actress noting that even the ‘most awful, difficult, horrible’ people can keep a job, if they continue to ‘make money’ – which she was, for a time. 

‘You can be the most awful, difficult, horrible person on the planet, but if you’re making them money, they’re going to keep hiring you,’ Heigl said.  

Hiring: 'You can be the most awful, difficult, horrible person on the planet, but if you’re making them money, they’re going to keep hiring you,' Heigl said; seen in 2012

Hiring: 'You can be the most awful, difficult, horrible person on the planet, but if you’re making them money, they’re going to keep hiring you,' Heigl said; seen in 2012

Hiring: ‘You can be the most awful, difficult, horrible person on the planet, but if you’re making them money, they’re going to keep hiring you,’ Heigl said; seen in 2012

Dead: She even hit a point around 2015, where she felt she'd, 'rather be dead,' though her family helped her get through those tough times; seen in My Father The Hero

Dead: She even hit a point around 2015, where she felt she'd, 'rather be dead,' though her family helped her get through those tough times; seen in My Father The Hero

Dead: She even hit a point around 2015, where she felt she’d, ‘rather be dead,’ though her family helped her get through those tough times; seen in My Father The Hero

‘I knew that whatever they felt I had done that was so awful, they would overlook it if I made them money — but then my films started to make not quite as much money.’ 

When her successful on-screen career turned into a series of failures and flops, Heigl reached breaking point, struggling to cope with the increasing pressure to secure a box office hit, coupled with the enduringly negative labels that followed her from job to job. 

In 2015, her anxiety had become so extreme that she felt like she would ‘rather be dead’ – and she asked her family to help her seek professional help to deal with her mental health issues, revealing that she began taking prescription drug Zoloft which is used to treat depression, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety disorder.  

‘I asked my mom and my husband to find me somewhere to go that could help me because I felt like I would rather be dead. I didn’t realize how much anxiety I was living with until I got so bad that I had to really seek help. You can do a lot of inner soul work, but I’m a big fan of Zoloft,’ Heigl said. 

Her husband, Josh Kelley, who she married in 2007, said that if Heigl had said the things she said then, in today’s climate, she’d be considered, ‘a hero.’ 

Advocate: She even had another advocate in her 27 Dresses co-star James Marsden, who had nothing but glowing things to say about her

Advocate: She even had another advocate in her 27 Dresses co-star James Marsden, who had nothing but glowing things to say about her

Advocate: She even had another advocate in her 27 Dresses co-star James Marsden, who had nothing but glowing things to say about her

‘I can’t imagine what all of that pressure did to her over the years, dealing with celebrity, dealing with people saying things about her that are not true. It would be hard for anybody to process that, especially when it’s unjust and a lot of it’s negative,’ Heigl said.

She even had another advocate in her 27 Dresses co-star James Marsden, who had nothing but glowing things to say about her. 

‘She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn’t back down from letting you know if she feels like she’s been wronged in any way. I’ve always seen that as just strength of character,’ Marsden said.

‘I can see how that can get construed as being difficult or ungrateful or whatever. But if you know Katie, it’s simply because she has the courage to stand behind something she believes,’ he added.

Marsden continued, ‘One element of Katie that I’ve always thought would define her was her drive. I never thought that she was going to be one that idles well. She’s not going to sit there. She’s going to take control and do it her way.’ 

Strong: 'She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn’t back down from letting you know if she feels like she’s been wronged in any way. I’ve always seen that as just strength of character,' Marsden said; seen in Suits

Strong: 'She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn’t back down from letting you know if she feels like she’s been wronged in any way. I’ve always seen that as just strength of character,' Marsden said; seen in Suits

Strong: ‘She has very strong convictions and strong opinions on certain things, and she doesn’t back down from letting you know if she feels like she’s been wronged in any way. I’ve always seen that as just strength of character,’ Marsden said; seen in Suits

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