Ellen Pompeo to Katherine Heigl: ‘nobody likes a super confident woman’

There’s a Variety “Actors on Actors” conversation between Ellen Pompeo and Katherine Heigl that I was very surprised to see. It was titled as “The ‘Grey’s’ Reunion We’ve Been Waiting For,” which, uh, sure. I guess so since Sandra Oh doesn’t seem interested in revisiting the show. Apparently Katherine and Ellen are great friends with the former even throwing the latter a baby shower back in the day, which was also news to me considering I didn’t think Ellen was friends with anyone in the cast aside from Jesse Williams and I don’t think she said a public word in support of Katherine until recently. But anyway, their conversation did have some interesting insights for longtime Grey’s fans such as myself.

On Ellen leaving Grey’s Anatomy

HEIGL: With Meredith, are you letting her go, or is she coming with you?

POMPEO: Oh no, I’ve been on the show so long, I’m happy to let that go. We’re past that point. I think it’s OK for Meredith to stop making bad decisions. One of my frustrations is the Nick and Meredith of it all. Scott Speedman plays Meredith’s love interest, Nick Marsh, and I love Speedman. Somehow, Meredith can’t figure out how to make a relationship work, still, after all this time. I felt so happy to be able to step away, and I felt like I accomplished something incredible.

On Grey’s being a surprise hit

POMPEO: We came into work the next day, and everybody was freaking out. The ratings were huge. I don’t even know if people can count that high anymore. Then we went on hiatus, and the show was airing. I’m so grateful there was no social media then. We would’ve lost our minds, even more than we already lost our minds.

HEIGL: It didn’t take a lot. I just remember that I was nervous that they were not going to air it. There was a moment when it was unclear. They didn’t like it.

POMPEO: We’ll be very nice and not name the executive who almost took a nap on Shonda Rhimes. I’m not saying it, but he almost slept on Shonda Rhimes — almost didn’t air that pilot! You can do your research and find out who it was. Imagine being that guy.

On intimacy coordinators and supporting younger talent on set

POMPEO: This is not specific to the character of Izzie leaving, but stress on sets … I’ve only been on one set my whole entire career, so I guess people could critique this comment, but I hear a lot of stories; I don’t hear about a lot of support. That’s one of the things I try to do now as a producer, specifically on “Grey’s,” is try to offer support — try to have a place for people to talk through things. There was no one to tell me, “This is OK. This is not OK.” There’s a very exploitive nature to what we do. Intimacy coordinators create a whole other slew of problems, but the intention behind it is good.

HEIGL: I had this experience on “Firefly Lane,” because I was like, “I’m an old Hollywood broad, bitch. You don’t have to tell me how to make out on camera.” And I ended up loving this woman so deeply, and being so grateful for her, because she protected us in a way that I didn’t realize how unprotected we were. And I was so grateful to her as well, because we did have young girls on the set. There was a rape scene. And for her to be there protecting them, I felt this weight off of me in a way that I didn’t feel like I had to find a way to fight those battles for these girls. I’m always the bad guy. People like me to be the bad guy.

On women being the victim or villain

POMPEO: You know what I love? There’s two roles women fit into, victim or villain. And the women who are victims are only victims because they don’t have the guts to be the villain.

HEIGL: I was so naive. I got on my soapbox and I had some things to say, and I felt really passionate about this stuff. I felt really strongly. I felt so strongly that I also got a megaphone out on my soapbox. There was no part of me that imagined a bad reaction. I felt really justified in how I felt about it and where I was coming from. I’ve spent most of my life — I think most women do — being in that people-pleasing mode. It’s really disconcerting when you feel like you have really displeased everybody. It was not my intention to do so, but I had some things to say, and I didn’t think I was going to get such a strong reaction.

POMPEO: Listen, nobody likes a super confident woman. And that’s why they’re taking away reproductive rights, and voting rights all over this country, is because they don’t want women to find their power. They don’t want women to have a voice. They don’t want women to have control because they know that we can do it better than they can.

[From Variety]

In their conversation, they also mention that Grey’s showed an ectopic pregnancy for Sandra Oh’s character back in the mid-aughts, noting that Republicans should learn more about that stuff and give kudos to Shonda Rhimes for including it. But they also leave out that years later the same character later has an abortion just because she wants to and it’s her right, when not a lot of shows were doing that at the time. And the current iteration of Grey’s is focusing a lot on abortion activism and work in the wake of the fall of Roe.. As much as I complain about the show’s recent switch to hitting viewers over the head with very obvious and too realistic narratives (e.g. the covid storylines), it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of viewers need to see this stuff. Anyway, they are right about what they say about women and Katherine was treated badly at the time because she “stepped out of line” and was punished for her. I just find it curious that Ellen is so supportive now, but I guess she felt she had to toe the line back then and feels more empowered to speak up now that the show is entering its 20th season and she’s not even on it anymore? The whole thing is worth a read if you’re a Grey’s fan.

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7 Responses to “Ellen Pompeo to Katherine Heigl: ‘nobody likes a super confident woman’”

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  1. death by bacon says:

    Well she’s not lying. Said perceived by many as a super confident woman.

  2. j.ferber says:

    They are absolutely correct. People will also try to drag down a super-confident woman.

  3. M&M says:

    Just finished watching FireFly Lane with Katherine Heigl, she is great in that show. I loved it. She’s a talented actress, it’s a shame she was held back for so many years. Glad to see her back.

  4. Abigail says:

    “There’s two roles women fit into, victim or villain. And the women who are victims are only victims because they don’t have the guts to be the villain.”
    Oof that hit hard.
    She’s so right though, female characters are always either saints who need to be protected and saved, or sexy villains who, while badass, always get punished in the end.
    There’s no female version of the ubiquitous “bad boy with a heart of gold who gets redemption and wins the good love interest against all odds”. At least none that I can think of.

    Also, the worst part is that either a woman is the perfect victim or she is the villain. You can’t be a flawed victim and it’s a big problem in the real world.
    There’s so much hate and shaming towards anything a woman does wrong and when something bad happens to her then it’s “she deserved it”.
    Her clothes were too revealing, she was too nice, she didn’t say anything, she also cheated, she was mean and bitchy, etc.

  5. StephsJumpShot says:

    I agree with the sentiment. It’s just hard to hear coming from these two. Heigl trashed the writers on her own show, and withdrew her name from consideration for an Emmy w/out regard to how that would affect all the people behind the scenes that never get the spotlight. And she has been given a hundred chances to come back. How many people get that?

    • Coco says:

      First she aloud to call out the wring on the show many men and some women have done it and get praise. She also aloud to withdrew her name, that and the people behind the scenes still wanted have gotten the spotlight if her name was kept on.

  6. J.Ferber says:

    StephsJumpShot, You know who gets that? Men. Men get 100 chances plus 1,000 more. And Abigail, what you say is very true. In my high school (I taught school for many years) a girl was raped in the bathroom by 3 boys after school. I remember one woman teacher asking why the girl would befriend those boys and opining that the girl was not very “innocent.” This was many years ago, but ouch. The boys did go to jail, but the poor girl (15 or 16 years old) had to live with that memory for a lifetime. I guess no woman victim is perfect enough not to have scorn/blame from others (women as well as men).