It’s been over a decade since Grey’s Anatomy fans saw Izzie, but that doesn’t mean that fans have forgotten about the former Seattle Grace doc — or her portrayer, Katherine Heigl.
“I felt very protective of Izzie,” Heigl told USA Today in 2010. “I really loved her. I felt she was an admirable woman who certainly made mistakes. But I was starting to not like her, and that bothered me.”
The Firefly star appeared as Izzie Stevens for more than 100 episodes of the ABC medical drama, but she left the series halfway through shooting season six in 2010. Her departure came after Heigl publicly feuded with creator Shonda Rhimes.
“There was a resolution to Izzie’s story. We had planned to have her come back for an episode to really properly tie up Izzie and Alex (Justin Chambers),” Krista Vernoff, who worked on seasons 1-7 of Grey’s before returning as the showrunner for season 14, told the Los Angeles Times in November 2020. “And I wrote that episode, and it was beautiful. The day before it was supposed to start prepping or shooting, I can’t remember, we got a call that Katie wasn’t coming. Just wasn’t coming. Wasn’t going to do it. It became my job to stay up all night for multiple nights and reimagine a script that didn’t include Izzie.”
Vernoff added: “And for years and years and years and years and years, the fans scream at us, ‘How could you?’ Well, that’s the behind-the-scenes story. That’s what happened. I’m not saying that to bash Katie. I don’t know what was happening in her life.”
After the L.A. Times‘ profile was published, however, sources close to Heigl told Us that Vernoff was “mistaken” when it came to the actress’ exit from the series. “Katherine was back in L.A. after parental leave (when she adopted her daughter) waiting to be called to set,” the insider said.
Either way, Izzie’s character was often mentioned on Grey’s Anatomy over the years by Chambers’ Alex Karev or Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey — and after Chambers quietly left the show during season 16, fans learned Alex reunited with Izzie, who secretly had their twins, offscreen in Kansas.
“When I left the show in season 7, people asked me if there was any chance of me ever coming back,” Vernoff told Deadline in 2020 when asked about the chances Heigl and/or Chambers would return one day. “I was smart enough to say, ‘Never say never.’ Here I am, so who knows?”
Scroll through for the most telling quotes from Heigl about Izzie, behind-the-scenes drama and more: