Last week, Grey's Anatomy's season 17 premiere featured the return of original cast member Patrick Dempsey as the late Derek Shepherd, who reunited with her character, Meredith Grey, in a dream sequence. As if that weren't shocking enough for fans, a new promo has promised that "another person from her past returns" for a Dec. 3 episode.
On Thursday, Nov. 19, the veteran female star fueled rumors that the mystery person is Katherine Heigl, who left the show in 2010 after playing Izzie Stevens for the first six seasons. Pompeo tweeted, "Hey it's Grey's day!!!" alongside a GIF showing her and Heigl's characters together in a season three episode.
Naturally, fans freaked out, speculating, as one person tweeted, "IZZIE COMING BACK??"
Another user wrote, "IS IT GEORGE...we gotta wait 2 mf weeks??? I can't." Pompeo replied, "That @ABCNetwork promo department are messing with y'all in a major way no? @GreysABC"
The actress added, "If you really think about it... there's a lot of people it could be."
Heigl has not publicly commented on Pompeo's tweet. A return for her to Grey's Anatomy would surprise many fans, as part of her time on the show and her exit were marred by controversy. She had even feuded with creator Shonda Rhimes, who left the show and the ABC network altogether for a Netflix deal in 2017.
In 2008, two years prior to her departure, Heidl famously withdrew her name from Emmy contention. "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the Academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention," she said in a statement at the time. "In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials."
In 2012, Rhimes commented on Heigl's Emmy snub in on Oprah's Next Chapter. "On some level it stung, and on some level I was not surprised," she told Oprah Winfrey. "When people show you who they are, believe them. I carry that with me a lot. It has served me well."
Also in 2012, Heigl told E! News that she had asked to appear again on Grey's Anatomy. "I've told them I want to," she said. "I really, really, really want to see where [Izzie] is. I just want to know what happened to her and where she went and what she's doing now."
In 2014, in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter about her show Scandal, Rhimes raised eyebrows when she mentioned the actress. She said the operation runs smoothly and the cast is tight-knit, adding, "There are no Heigls in this situation" and "I don't put up with bulls--t or nasty people. I don't have time for it."
Heigl later told Extra, "I am sorry that she feels that way and I wish her nothing but greatness, and I have nothing negative to say about Shonda. I'm a big fan of her work. I watch Scandal every week, and so I'm sorry she's left with such a crappy impression of me. I wish I could do something to change that. Maybe I will be able to someday."
In 2016, Heigl said on The Howard Stern Show that she made amends with Rhimes after the Emmy drama. "I went in because I was really embarrassed," she said. "So I went in to Shonda and said, 'I'm so sorry. That wasn't cool, and I should not have said that.' And I shouldn't have said anything publicly."
More recently, in 2019, Heigl was asked again if she would ever reprise her role of Izzie on Grey's Anatomy. "That's a tough one," she told Entertainment Tonight. "I almost feel like that would almost be distracting again to, sort of, what they've done with that show in the seven years since I left and what that's become and what it is to the fans now. It must feel like it would just be kind of like, 'Yeah, we already let that go...why are you here?'"