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Ellen Pompeo says Katherine Heigl would be a ‘complete hero’ today for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ comments

Pompeo is giving her former “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star credit for speaking out about their grueling work schedule over a decade ago.
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Speaking out about a grueling work schedule is brave, but always a bit of a risk. And that's something Katherine Heigl knows all too well. Eric McCandless / ABC via Getty Images

Katherine Heigl was criticized when she spoke out about her grueling “Grey’s Anatomy” work schedule over a decade ago, but one of her co-stars is still impressed that she had the guts to advocate for her team.

In the latest episode of her "Tell Me" podcast, Ellen Pompeo speaks with "Grey's Anatomy" star Kate Walsh about the hit show and the importance of finding a work/life balance.

While discussing the long hours that actors often work on set, the 52-year-old recalled an interview that Heigl once gave where she talked about the cast's "insane hours."

"She was 100% right, and had she said that today, she’d be a complete hero," Pompeo said. "But she’s ahead of her time, made a statement about our crazy hours and of course, let’s slam a woman and call her ungrateful when the truth is she’s 100% honest and it’s absolutely correct what she said."

Pompeo appeared to be referring to Heigl's 2009 interview with David Letterman, where she revealed that the cast's first day back on set that year lasted 17 hours.

“I’m gonna keep saying this ‘cause I hope it embarrasses them," she said, calling the schedule "cruel and mean."

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The co-stars in an episode of the medical drama.Eric McCandless / ABC via Getty Images

Now that she's had some time to reflect on the moment, Pompeo said Heigl was "ballsy" for speaking out like that.

"She was telling the truth. She wasn’t lying," she said.

Walsh, who is returning to the medical drama as a guest, also spoke about her aversion to long hours in the industry and said she felt blessed to have a more reasonable schedule while filming "Emily in Paris."

"It was so nice. You can actually make a good show and shoot 10 hours and be done in 12 or 13," she said.

Pompeo agreed, saying "You have happier actors so you’re not going to have as much drama."

Heigl certainly hasn't been afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself throughout her career, but that did earn her a reputation as being "difficult." In 2021, the actor spoke about the damaging label in an interview with The Washington Post.

“I may have said a couple of things you didn’t like, but then that escalated to ‘she’s ungrateful,’ then that escalated to ‘she’s difficult,’ and that escalated to ‘she’s unprofessional,’” she said. “What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don’t like? Now, I’m 42, and that s--- pisses me off.”