During a wide-ranging interview with the Los Angeles Times, Vernoff revealed that she’d written a farewell for Izzie. The episode was intended to tie up the character’s story, particularly as it related to the relationship between Izzie and Alex Karev (Justin Chambers). Vernoff, who held the role of showrunner from 2007 to 2011, before returning to the position in season 14, says that she was informed that Heigl wasn’t going to film the episode. You can read Vernoff’s full quote below.
“We had planned to have her come back for an episode to really properly tie up Izzie and Alex. And I wrote that episode, and it was beautiful. The day before it was supposed to start prepping or shooting, I can’t remember, we got a call that Katie wasn’t coming. Just wasn’t coming. Wasn’t going to do it. It became my job to stay up all night for multiple nights and reimagine a script that didn’t include Izzie. And for years and years and years and years and years, the fans scream at us, “How could you?” Well, that’s the behind-the-scenes story. That’s what happened. I’m not saying that to bash Katie. I don’t know what was happening in her life. I don’t know what led to that decision. All I know is that the night before a thing is supposed to start shooting that is entirely centered on one character and the completion of her story arc, I got a phone call that she wasn’t coming to do it. That’s what it is to be a TV writer and producer. So, yeah, do I wish I could go back and do that differently? Sure.”
Sources close to Heigl dispute the claim, telling EW that “Krista is mistaken. Katherine was back in LA after parental leave (when she adopted her daughter) waiting to be called to set.” The disagreement represents the latest turn in Heigl’s sometimes contentious history with the creative team behind Grey’s Anatomy. Speculation frequently swirled that Heigl wanted to leave the series, fueled by the fact that the actress disagreed with some of the storylines that her character was a part of. In particular, Heigl referred to the affair between Izzie and George as a “ratings ploy.” In another flare-up, Heigl’s opted out of the Emmy race in 2008 because she felt that the material she’d been given was insufficient. Though the comment reportedly angered writers and producers of the medical drama, series creator Shonda Rhimes said she did not feel insulted by Heigl’s viewpoint. Still, with rumors of friction persisting for most of Grey’s Anatomy’s sixth season, Heigl was ultimately released from her contract.
Heigl has not appeared on Grey’s Anatomy since her abrupt exit a decade ago, but fans have received a bit of closure with regards to Izzie. In the season 16 episode “Leave a Light On”, it’s revealed that Izzie and Alex have gotten back together. The couple live on a farm in Kansas, raising their young twins. It’s also mentioned that Izzie works as a surgical oncologist. For now, that off-screen resolution will have to suffice as this latest public spat suggests that Heigl won’t be returning to Grey’s Anatomy anytime soon.
More: Grey’s Anatomy: Why Chyler Leigh’s Lexie Left In Season 8
Source: Los Angeles Times, EW