Katherine Heigl: 'I don't see myself as difficult'

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Katherine Heigl with costar Alfre Woodard. Heigl's mother, Nancy, looks on from above.
STATE OF AFFAIRS: Katherine Heigl with costar Alfre Woodard. Heigl's mother, Nancy, looks on from above.

In the PR-driven, image-controlled world of Hollywood it is a rare sight to see an actress being publicly called to account for her "difficult" reputation.

But former Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl found herself under fire this week, fielding at-times hostile questions about whether she and her mother Nancy, who is also her manager, were difficult to work with.

Heigl was appearing on a panel at a television press event in Los Angeles to promote her new series, a political drama titled State of Affairs.

Things came unstuck when a journalist asked her whether stories in the media, about how difficult she was to work with, were true.

Heigl, momentarily flustered by the directness of the question, responded with: "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.

"I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly. If I’ve ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional," Heigl continued.

The 35-year-old actress courted controversy in 2008 when, as one of the stars of Grey's Anatomy, she withdrew herself from Emmy contention.

At the time, she said not been "given the material ... to warrant an Emmy nomination"; her remarks were interpreted as an ungracious swipe at the show's writers and producer Shonda Rhimes.

Heigl ultimately quit Grey's Anatomy for a film career, but her films have either struggled at the box office, or received poor notices from film critics.

In a recent interview with Marie Claire magazine, she said the harsh criticism of her work in film felt like "my best friend for a long time suddenly turned on me. And I didn't expect it. I was taken by surprise and angry at it for betraying me."

Television producer Ed Bernero, who was on the panel alongside Heigl, and produces State of Affairs, tried to answer on her behalf but only got out a few words before he was cut off by the journalist.

"Seriously, I want to hear it from Katherine," the journalist said.

As the tension grew, Heigl responded, but didn't directly address the point any further, ambiguously talking about the Marie Claire interview.

"I don't know that I said my career was not under my control. Are you referring to the Marie Claire article?" she said. "I think I said I had stopped challenging myself ... I felt that I was sort of letting down my audience and wasn't challenging them either."

Attention then shifted to Heigl's mother Nancy, who, in addition to being her manager, is also credited as one of several executive producers on State of Affairs.

And with came an even more awkward question: what, exactly, does "mom" do on the show?

"We work as a partnership," Nancy Heigl responded. "I am her mother for sure, so of course I have her best interests, but I'm really learning. But it's been fun and it's been interesting. I'm really new to it."

The issue of Mrs Heigl's qualification for her role as an executive producer on a network television series was raised earlier in the day, when NBC's executives fronted the media for an "executive session".

Asked why Nancy Heigl was working as a producer on State of Affairs, NBC's entertainment president Jennifer Salke said the project was developed with the two women - mother and daughter - as a package deal.

"It's not surprising when the mother walks in the door with her, because we knew that they're a set," Salke said. "She's not been disruptive in any way that I can think of."

Sydney Morning Herald