Ellen Pompeo is backing up her former Grey’s Anatomy co-star Katherine Heigl, saying the actress was right in calling out the show’s “insane” working hours back in 2009. During the latest episode of her Tell Me With Ellen Pompeo podcast, Ellen spoke out about the early days of the medical drama and how the cast and crew would work “crazy, crazy hours,” which Katherine infamously referenced on Late Night with David Letterman, a year before she left the series after six seasons. “I remember Heigl said something on a talk show about the insane hours we were working,” Ellen recalled. “And she was 100 percent right.”
During her 2009 appearance on the late show, Katherine slammed Grey’s Anatomy’s working conditions, calling out the 17-hour workdays as “cruel and mean.” She added at the time, “I’m gonna keep saying this because I hope it embarrasses them.” The incident, along with withdrawing her name from Emmy consideration because she thought the show’s writing wasn’t up to par, changed the trajectory of her career as she was soon labeled “difficult” and “unprofessional,” per THR.
“Had she said that today, she’d be a complete hero,” Ellen said on her podcast. “But she’s ahead of her time, made a statement about our crazy hours and, of course, let’s slam a woman and call her ungrateful when the truth is she’s 100 percent honest, and it’s absolutely correct what she said.”
“And she was f–king ballsy for saying it. And she was telling the truth. She wasn’t lying,” Ellen continued. “Also, when you’re younger, you’re so excited to be there and you’re so happy to be invited to the party that you’re willing to do whatever it is they’re asking you to do.”
Katherine addressed the controversy in September, more than a decade after she left the series and retired her beloved character Izzie Stevens. “I very publicly and for many, many years after, got my ass kicked for speaking up,” she wrote on Instagram. The actress went on to say she struggled with her “self-confidence and self-worth” after the backlash, but she is now ready to stand up again. “So, I speak up today and say with zero hesitation or regret…14, 16, 17, 18-hour work days are NOT safe. They are NOT healthy. They cannot and should NO longer be tolerated.”
And just four months after the Instagram redemption post, Katherine revealed how she would feel about bringing Izzie back to Grey’s Anatomy, which is now on its 19th season. “You know, I just, I don’t know,” she said during a virtual interview on E! News’ Daily Pop on January 27.
Meanwhile, the show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, recently dished on what characters she would like to see return to the ABC series. “Some of them aren’t alive anymore,” Shonda said at the grand opening of the Shonda Rhimes Performing Arts Center in L.A. on April 12. “I always loved Meredith (Ellen) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey). I always loved George (T.R. Knight).”