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Ellen Pompeo Says Katherine Heigl Would Be A 'Hero' If She'd Called Out 'Grey's Anatomy' Working Conditions Nowadays

Ellen Pompeo Says Katherine Heigl Would Be A 'Hero' If She'd Called Out 'Grey's Anatomy' Working Conditions Nowadays
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Years after actress Katherine Heigl's departure from ABC's long-running medical drama Grey's Anatomy, her original co-star Ellen Pompeo agreed with her comments about the show's working conditions.

"I remember Heigl said something on a talk show about the insane hours we were working and she was 100 percent right," recalled Pompeo on a recent episode of her podcast, Tell Me with Ellen Pompeo, on which another former co-star, Kate Walsh, was a guest.

Heigl played the role of Dr. Izzie Stevens and was an original cast member from 2005 to 2010.

She was known for butting heads with the show's producers and creatives–including the show's creator Shonda Rhimes–over long working hours and her character development.

Heigl's inclination to speak up with her objections and being labeled by industry insiders as "difficult to work with" and "unprofessional" eventually led to her being written off the show after six seasons.

The interview in which Heigl condemned the punishing hours on set was during her appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2009 when the medical drama was in its sixth season.

In the interview, Heigl described how a typical workday of 17 hours for the leading actors was "cruel and mean."

"I'm gonna keep saying this 'cause I hope it embarrasses them," she told Letterman.

Pompeo said that if Heigl delivered her exposé about the show's working conditions today, "She'd be a complete hero."

She added:

"But she's ahead of her time, made a statement about our crazy hours and of course, [it was like] 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."
"She was f'king ballsy for saying it—she was telling the truth. She wasn't lying!"

While her statement was commendable, people on social media thought Pompeo's support of Heigl came too late.

Hopeful fans interpreted Pompeo's comments into a prediction.

Walsh, who left Grey's as a series regular in 2007 to kick off her spin-off series, Private Practice, backed Pompeo's comment about Heigl, saying:

"There's nothing natural about [the filming process]. There's nothing human about it."
"It's made for a machine, it's as if we're a camera or a mic that just goes and goes and goes. And it's not conducive to any kind of healthy habits."

It was announced last September that Walsh's character, Dr. Addision Montgomery, will reprise her role for the show's 18th season.

Around the same time as the announcement of Walsh's return, Heigl reflected back on the backlash she suffered in her career for being vocal and wrote a social media post advocating for fair working conditions in Hollywood.

“Some of you may remember over ten years ago I was very vocal about the absurdity of the working hours crews and actors were being forced into by production,” she wrote.

“Even Diane Sawyer interviewed me and not so kindly informed me ‘no one feels sorry for you.’ I very publicly and for many many years after got my a** kicked for speaking up.”

She continued:

”When production plows into hour 14 and beyond, they are asking our crews to drive themselves home bone tired. … The number of people who have fallen asleep at the wheel is staggering."
"The number of accidents that happen on set due to exhaustion are shocking. Illness both mental and physical is off the charts. There is nothing glamorous or sexy about working past the point of exhaustion.”

“When I first spoke up I was speaking on behalf of myself and my crew on Grey’s,” she said, adding how things are different for her now.

“I am in the fortunate position of being able to say no. To turn down a job if it requires more then I can bear. And in all honesty…I’ve kind of aged out of giving a sh*t if I piss people off by creating boundaries that protect my health, sanity, and work.”

Heigl concluded her statement with:

“It is time for reasonable and fair work conditions, wages, and hours to be more then just a priority they need to be the norm. Period.”