Will Katherine Heigl have to defend her ‘difficult’ reputation forever?


Katherine Heigl (L) and Alfre Woodard (R) on a panel for  “State of Affairs.” (Danny Moloshok/Reuters)

Katherine Heigl is at that point in her career when her real life is way more interesting than any of the characters she plays. Unfortunately, details about her real life aren’t very flattering — so naturally, it’s all people want to discuss.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Hollywood gossip remembers the deal. While on the path to becoming America’s new rom-com queen around 2007, things went south for Heigl after she publicly slammed the two major projects (“Grey’s Anatomy” and “Knocked Up”) that shot her to fame. She was in a few more movies after that (“27 Dresses,” “The Ugly Truth”) but was written off “Grey’s” and quickly became persona non grata in showbiz, especially thanks to constant rumors about her demanding personality on set.

Now, after a humbling few years of doing Nyquil commercials, Heigl is back in the spotlight with a new NBC show that debuts this fall, “State of Affairs.” But the thing that’s getting headlines? All the drama surrounding Heigl’s personal reputation.

This story has picked up steam because of a few reasons: First, there’s nothing people love more than a good Hollywood downfall; and some of Heigl’s offenses were so egregious (like not submitting herself for an Emmy nomination because she didn’t think the “Grey’s” scripts were good enough) that many seemed delighted as she was knocked off the pedestal. Second, it’s an intriguing storyline: Someone getting banned from Hollywood for speaking the truth, a rarity in the entertainment industry. When that someone is an actress, the story gets juicier: Is she labeled “difficult” only because she’s an outspoken woman?

That question came up over the weekend at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, during NBC’s session to promote “State of Affairs,” in which Heigl plays a CIA agent. A reporter noted that there have been many stories about Heigl and her mother (who’s also her manager) having reputations for being difficult on set; though the executive producer of the show tried to speak up, the reporter wanted Heigl’s thoughts on the topic.

“I can’t really speak to that. I can only say that I certainly don’t see myself as being difficult. I would never intend to be difficult,” Heigl replied. “I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I mean, it’s most important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly. So [if] I have ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional.”

The corporate-speak answer diffused the question for the moment — and Heigl didn’t really address the other part of the query, about if she thought she was being punished for being a woman in Hollywood who speaks her mind — but it got the most headlines out of any part of the session.

So, is this how it’s going to be? It certainly seems that way: While Heigl is making the press rounds for “State of Affairs,” she’s already jumped back into the news cycle by telling Marie Claire UK that she felt “betrayed” by her career as a romantic comedy actress when things went sour.

As usual, people will fixate on anything with a hint of scandal  — and as long as that continues to be the most compelling part about Heigl’s image, that’s what people will ask. If the show is a hit, maybe the attention will move away from this particular storyline. If not — well, this line of questioning likely won’t go away anytime soon.

Hank Stuever contributed to this report.

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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