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Why was Katherine Heigl's exit from 'Grey's Anatomy' so controversial? See what the actress revealed about her dramatic departure.

Did Katherine Heigl reveal why she really left ‘Grey’s Anatomy’?

When a television show has been running for 18 seasons, it’s natural that many characters will leave, die, exit, or get their own spinoff. That’s exactly what happens at Grey’s Anatomy. But character exits are always 

When a show lasts as long as Grey’s Anatomy, it’s natural to expect that most cast members—if not all of them—will want to hit the road someday. No matter how great the salary is, playing the same role year after year can take an emotional (and sometimes physical) toll. 

It’s the same sentiment for the writers: How many grueling surgeries and bad relationships can one character endure before you run out of the story? In television, everyone has an expiration date. You might be lucky and get a great goodbye.

The truth behind Izzie Stevens

Up until the time Izzie Stevens left Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital, she had a solid storyline. She’d beat cancer, she was proving her skill as a surgeon, she was married to Alex Karev, had put her career at stake for love (remember when she cut the LVAD wire? Kind of a sassy detail to miss), and shared great friendship & loyalty with George O’Malley. 

But Izzie’s departure from the show also marked one of the first times the main character had been disgracefully written out. Sending divorce papers to Alex without context? Administering the wrong dosage of medicine because you’re distracted? Doctors aren’t supposed to break under duress. 

For a long time, it was believed that Katherine Heigl, who brought a distinct charm & warmth to the character of Izzie, was to blame for how things ended. Rumors were always claiming that she felt ungrateful for the opportunity, for the show that made her a household name. But The Ugly Truth star has now set the record straight on these issues.

The inside story

In Lynette Rice’s new book, How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey’s Anatomy, Katherine explains that the only factors responsible for her departure were personal, “I started a family, and it changed everything. It changed my desire to work full-time. I went on family leave . . . and just got to be a mom, and it changed my whole perspective . . . that was really the turning point.”

She shared, “So before I was due back, I spoke again to Shonda about wanting to leave. Then I waited at home until I was given the formal okay that I was off the show. The rumors that I refused to return were totally untrue.” The showrunner Shonda Rhimes was trying to work with Katherine to find a middle ground, to see if Katherine could do both. 

She dismissed the talks that she wasn’t ready to return. Instead, it was out of consideration for everyone else, that she took the decision to withdraw, “There wasn’t a great way to compromise the work schedule that didn’t negatively affect the crew or the cast. It wasn’t feeling fair to them or the show to ask them to bend around my needs.”

A show of gratitude

She also shared that the most hurtful comments are about how she was ungrateful. Part of this theory comes from her Emmy snub, when she infamously withdrew her nominations from the awards, citing reasons about creative limitations that her character worked in. Now, she’s clearing the air on that too. 

She was quoted as saying, “The ‘ungrateful’ thing bothers me the most. And that is my fault, I allowed myself to be perceived that way. So much about living life, to me, is about humility and gratitude. And I’ve tried very hard to have those qualities and be that person, and I’m just so disappointed in myself that I allowed it to slip. Of course, I’m grateful. How can I not be?”

Heigl’s wasn’t the only controversial or ambiguous exits. If we’ve to look into early seasons, we wonder what happened to Steven W. Bailey, who played the bartender Jo. Reportedly, he was never written off the show officially, but he cites economics for his departure. When all’s said & done, nothing makes us feel worse than Alex Karev’s exit

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