UPDATE: A source in Katherine Heigl's camp tells me that the actress was never given a call time to return to work on the Grey's Anatomy set after her family leave ended earlier this month. According to this source, Heigl's "calls weren't returned" when she phoned in asking when to report back. I'm also hearing that a statement may be made regarding this matter later this week. Stay tuned.
This is what well-placed sources close to Grey's Anatomy tell me about Katherine Heigl, after the news broke that the starlet was "almost" gone from the series.
So why is she leaving? And how will her character Izzie Stevens be written out? Here's the scoop:
According to insiders at ABC and Grey's Anatomy, Katherine Heigl has been asking to leave Grey's Anatomy for close to three years now, and she finally got what she wanted last week when Grey's boss Shonda Rhimes and the higher-ups at ABC agreed to let her out of her contract.
"She's leaving the show," one ABC insider tells me. "She wants to do movies."
According to one of Heigl's coworkers on the Grey's set, things got "pretty miserable" for all parties involved and "they [the producers] decided to let her leave."
The show's ABC rep has no comment, and Heigl just parted ways with her personal publicist.
I'm told it is unlikely that Katherine will return to the Grey's set at all this season, and Shonda's writing staff is still determining how to handle her departure in the storyline. (They faced a similar dilemma a few years ago when Isaiah Washington left the series.) It hasn't been decided yet if it will be left open for her character to return.
Insiders confirm EW's report that Katherine was scheduled to return to the Grey's set two weeks ago, after taking maternity leave with her newly adopted daughter and also shooting a movie. However, she has not been back.
Last season, word spread that Heigl had asked to be let out of her contract, along with her good friend T.R. Knight, which led to last May's brilliantly executed season-finale cliffhanger in which both characters appeared to be dead. (It was revealed in the fall premiere that Katherine's Izzie survived.)
I ran into T.R. himself Saturday night at an L.A. restaurant (he ate dinner at the table next to me with a friend) and T.R. said of his current life (after Grey's): "Things are good. I'm happy."
He looked it. While T.R. has stopped dying his hair dark for the role of George O'Malley (and looks pretty great with lighter locks and a beard), Katherine appears to have nabbed up that dye bottle and went darker last week, as you can see in the photo above. Maybe it's all some kind of cathartic/celebratory Grey's breakup process?
How much will you miss Izzie/Katherine on Grey's Anatomy? Should the writers leave it open for her to return or kill her off for good? The comments are yours for the taking...
(Originally published on March 15, 2010, at 7:22 a.m. PT.)