July 13, 2014 1:00pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Katherine Heigl: 'I Certainly Don't See Myself as Being Difficult'
On the eve of her small-screen return, State of Affairs star Katherine Heigl was forced to face the critics — and her reputation.
She joined her fellow stars and producers Sunday at the Television Critics Association to discuss the new NBC drama, but attention quickly turned to accusations that she and her producer-manager mother, Nancy, are "difficult." The latter, which were documented in a Hollywood Reporter feature last year, have trailed the pair since Heigl's ugly exit from ABC's Grey's Anatomy in 2010, and continued when the actress blasted her box-office breakout Knocked Up as "sexist."
Showrunner Ed Bernero attempted to deflect the uncomfortable line of questions for his visually uncomfortable star, but a reporter cut him off, insisting Heigl take it herself. Surprised, Bernero shot back, "Wow, that was rude," before Heigl began.
"I certainly don't see myself as being difficult; I would never intend to be difficult. I don't think my mother sees herself as being difficult," the actress told reporters. "It's always important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly so if I have ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional."
Heigl also suggested she stopped challenging herself as an actress. "I love doing romantic comedies … but I stopped exercising different muscles of my ability," she said from the stage, with her mother seated nearby. "In that moment, I felt that I was letting down my audience and I wasn't challenging them, either."
She continued of her decision to join the drama, which is being billed as Scandal meets West Wing: "I think that this opportunity is — and a lot of people want to know why this show, why come back to television — because it's an extraordinary role, an extraordinary opportunity and story and an opportunity for me to flex some different muscles and show a different side of myself as actor and performer and storyteller that I hope my audience will be excited about and love."
The topic of Heigl family difficulty began earlier in the day, when entertainment chief Jennifer Salke was asked to defend Nancy Heigl's role with the series, as well as her appearance at TCA. Salke described Katherine's mother as her "momager, best friend and confidant," noting that the duo has a very natural shorthand when it comes to the series. Pressed still more, she added of Nancy: "There haven't been any problems; she hasn't been disruptive."
Nancy Heigl was asked the same batch of questions during the series panel. "I am her mother for sure, so of course I care about her interests but I'm just learning about executive producing and I'm learning from those who really know at NBC and [studio] Universal [Television]," she said, confirming that she and her daughter have been working on the passion project for more than two and a half years. "It's been fun and interesting. I'm a newcomer to it."
Both Nancy and Katherine Heigl were pulled immediately after the panel for the subsequent scrum with reporters while other producers remained on hand.