Katherine Heigl’s appearance at Summer TV Press Tour 2014, to discuss her return to series TV, was as dramatic as you’d expect. The hall was packed with media to hear Heigl talk about her new NBC series State of Affairs, in which she plays a CIA analyst who presents the U.S. President’s daily briefing on security issues facing the country. Heigl, you’ll remember, is the actress who became a major star on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, then left that series to focus on her film career — but only after alienating some on Grey’s for, among other incidents, telling the media she had not submitted herself for Emmy consideration one season because she did not think she had been given good enough material.
Then there was that Vanity Fair interview she gave after filming feature comedy Knocked Up, from writer/director Judd Apatow, starring opposite Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Leslie Mann, in which Heigl said she enjoyed the work, but not so much the film, because it was “a little sexist,” “paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.” For those comments, the media described her as an “ungrateful traitor,” among other yeasty comments.
Before Heigl’s Q&A, a TV critic asked NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke why Katherine’s mother, “stage mom” Nancy Heigl, was scheduled for that Q&A and listed as one of State of Affairs’ executive producers. Salke explained that Katherine came with her mom to pitch the show during development season, and that Nancy Heigl had been “incredibly smart through this process.” “She is someone who has strong opinions, but we found her to be nothing but additive,” Salke insisted, acknowledging “Katie really relies on her in her life, and it’s a real partnership that seems to work for both of them.” She called Nancy “momager,” “best friend,” “partner in her life” to Katherine Heigl.
During the show’s Q&A, the same reporter asked Nancy Heigl what she was doing on the show. “She bakes us cookies,” Katherine Heigl stage-muttered. Her mother, however, answered that the project had been pitched to her and her daughter, adding, “I am her mother for sure, so, of course I care about her, but I am just learning about exec producing, and am learning from those who really know….I’m a newcomer to it.”
Later, a TV critic asked Katherine Heigl to address “stories” that she and her mother were difficult to work with, and whether she thought Hollywood had punished her in her career for her outspokenness. She also was asked to explain what she meant when she said in a recent interview that her career had gotten a little out of her control. State of Affairs exec producer Ed Bernero attemped to step in, asking the TV critic, rhetorically, if he could say something on that score.
“No,” the critic responded, explaining he wanted to hear what Heigl had to say. Bernero appeared to react like someone who’d just been bitten by a bunny rabbit. Recovering from his momentary shock, he continued trying to speak. Again the critic cut him off, explaining the question had been addressed to Heigl for a reason, only this time the critic was part of a chorus telling Bernero to put a sock in it. This time, Bernero reacted like someone who’d just been bitten by a herd of rabbits.
“Wow! That’s rude!” he said.
Heigl came to his rescue, beginning to speak for herself. She insisted she did not say her career had gotten a little out of control. Rather, she said, she had stopped challenging herself in her movie roles. “I love doing romantic comedies,” she explained, but stopped “exercising different muscles of my ability,” which let down her audience too because “I wasn’t challenging them either.” She said she took this role on State of Affairs because it’s “an extraordinary role, and an extraordinary story, and the opportunity to flex different muscles. I hope my audience will be excited about it. As far as your other question: I can’t speak to that. I can only say I don’t see myself as being difficult. I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother intends to be difficult. It’s important to everybody to conduct themselves respectfully, and professionally, and kindly. If I ever disappointed somebody, it was unintentional.”