Katherine Heigl Joins ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Reunion at Emmys and Nods to Her Controversial Exit: ‘Yes, There Have Been Changes Over the Years’

Katherine Heigl joined her former “Grey’s Anatomy” cast members Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, James Pickens Jr. and Chandra Wilson on stage during the Emmy Awards in what was one of the more high-profile reunions for the stars. The group presented the Emmy for supporting actor in a limited or anthology series or movie to Paul Walter Hauser for Apple’s “Black Bird.”

The Emmys telecast was full of cast reunions, from “Martin” to “The Sopranos” and more, but Heigl joining forces with her “Grey’s” cast was notable given her controversial exit from the series.

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“When the first episode of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ aired in March of 2005, I’m not sure if Shonda Rhimes knew that she had created a show that would have a lasting imprint on television and create lifelong friendships,” Pompeo said to the audience ahead of the show’s 20th season launching this year.

“And yes, there have been changes over the years,” Heigl said with a knowing wink to the camera. “But the one constant is the amazing fanbase.”

Wilson noted that fans have “stayed with us through plane crashes, superstorms, earthquakes and a global pandemic, and as we start our 20th season, we are officially the longest-running prime time medical drama in TV history.”

“And that would not be possible without all of you, so to all our fans,” Pickens Jr. concluded. “To all of you, thank you.”

Heigl won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series in 2007 thanks to her work as Izzie Stevens on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but she generated backlash the following year when she did not submit to the Emmys because she felt the next round of episodes didn’t give her good enough material. It was a shock to the industry, as previous winners almost always find themselves back in the running for at least a nomination. Heigl ended up leaving the ABC medical drama series after Season 6.

As part of Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series last year, Heigl joined “Grey’s Anatomy” leading star Ellen Pompeo for a conversation in which they reminisced on their days filming the ABC show. Both actors expressed gratitude to “Grey’s” creator Shonda Rhimes for redefining network television.

“Kudos to Shonda for changing the entire dialogue of network television at a time that really didn’t have women in those kinds of roles in the story, didn’t have as much diversity,” Heigl said at the time. “I was young. I wasn’t paying that much attention. It felt like a job, a great job. I didn’t realize it was as impactful as it was. Well, it’s a gift to have the privilege to grow older and wiser — we don’t all have it. We laughed so much and so hard, and the crew was so mad at us because we couldn’t pull our shit together to get through a take.”

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