As a secret (or not-so-secret) Grey’s Anatomy fan, the news that Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey) and OG star Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens) were doing one of Variety‘s 2023 ‘Actors on Actors’ interviews was thrilling. A special little treat. I wanted to send it to every other secret Grey’s Anatomy fan I know, which is somehow fewer than you’d expect. Grey’s is the longest-running medical drama in TV history, with early seasons being watched by tens of millions of people — the type of figures today’s TV networks can only dream about. Why then, does it still feel like discovering another member of a secret club when you learn someone else is also an early season Grey’s Anatomy tragic?
The first couple seasons of Grey’s Anatomy were elite, giving us what is known in Grey’s fan circles as ‘MAGIC’, an acronym for the five original interns of Seattle Grace: Meredith Grey (Pompeo), Alex Karev (Justin Chambers), George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), Izzy Stevens (Heigl), and Christina Yang (Sandra Oh).
But while the show dominated ratings and added words like McDreamy (a.k.a. Meredith’s love interest, Derek Shepherd, played by Patrick Dempsey) to our lexicon, behind the scenes, trouble was brewing. The Shonda Rhimes-created show was beset by rumours of a toxic work environment, in-fighting, pay disparity, and more. Isaiah Washington, who played cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Preston Burke, was fired at the end of season three after allegely making homophobic comments towards Knight, who later came out as gay.
Heigl famously spoke out about the environment, and was punished for it: her career, which was taking off in the then-prestige world of films, stalled, and she gained a reputation for being “difficult”.
Now, Ellen Pompeo and Katherine Heigl have reunited for the ‘Actors on Actors’ interview, and it was everything Grey’s fans were hoping for. Read on for the biggest revelations.
Ellen Pompeo’s Kids Don’t Know She Basically Invented The “Pick Me” Girl
One of Grey’s Anatomy’s most famous lines is uttered by Meredith in season two, when McDreamy is at a crossroads: stay with the wife who cheated on him but now wants him back, or choose the — quote unquote — “lusty intern” he fell in love with?
“Pick me,” Meredith tells him. “Choose me. Love me.”
In 2023, “pick me” girls have become the subject of derision by other girls, which Pompeo’s kids are well aware of. What they’re not aware of is that their mother basically coined the “pick me” girl.
“My daughter and her friends, they sit around and they’re like, ‘Oh, she’s a ‘pick me girl’,” Pompeo tells Heigl.
“Oh, my God! Is that what that means?” Heigl replies.
“Yes. I’m like, ‘What’s a pick me girl?’ They were like, ‘You know, girls who are like,”Pick me, choose me!”‘ And I’m like, ‘Hello?! Do you know who invented the pick me girl’?” Pompeo says.
Ellen Pompeo Fought Against The Line
It might have gone down in Grey’s Anatomy history, but Ellen Pompeo was adamantly against the line in the first place. “I fought that speech so hard,” she says. “That’s another really interesting thing about life — some things that I was so against, and I was like, ‘I can’t beg a man on TV! This is so embarrassing.’ And then it turns out to be one of the most famous scenes ever.”
Pompeo continues that she was crying real tears in that scene because she had to “beg a man on television”. Iconic.
Kathereine Heigl Used Her Childhood Trauma To Perform In An Iconic Scene
At the end of season two, Izzy’s patient-turned-fiancé Denny Duquet (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) dies of a blood clot after finally receiving the heart transplant he so desperately needed. (Writing those words in such an earnest way should make me feel embarrased, and yet, I am not. Grey’s will do as Grey’s does.) Katherine Heigl’s performance won her an Emmy, and clinched what could have been a soap-y storyline into something deeply emotional, and therefore iconic.
In the Variety interview, Heigl revealed that she tapped into the grief of losing her brother in order to portray Izzy’s grief.
“When it got to the point where he dies and she’s laying in the bed with him, I wanted so badly to nail that scene,” Heigl said. “I wanted it to feel the way it was written on the page. I don’t like to do that whole ‘Go into the dark place and listen to the music that’s going to tear my soul apart’ thing. And the worst was that I really went there. I was seven when my brother died, but we were in the hospital for a week. I don’t enjoy thinking about that much or that week in the hospital or him in that bed, but I chose to do that for that scene. I don’t think I’d do it again. I don’t think I would put myself in that headspace again to achieve that. I think I would try harder to just act it.”
Katherine Heigl Spent Years Believing The Negative Press About Her
When you think of people who were ahead of their time, Katherine Heigl always comes to mind. The actress spoke out not just about the Grey’s workplace, but about the inherent sexism of certain dude-bro movies of the era. The public evisercated her for it, and Heigl says it was only until her mid 30s that she was able to drown out the noise.
“I was so naive,” she says. “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.”
She continued: “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. I was in my late 20s. It took me until probably my mid- to late-30s to really get back to tuning out all of the noise and going, ‘But who are you? Are you this bad person? Are you ungrateful? Are you unprofessional? Are you difficult?’ Because I was confused! I thought maybe I was. I literally believed that version, and felt such shame for such a long time, and then had to go, ‘Wait. Who am I listening to? I’m not even listening to myself. I know who I am.'”
Pompeo joked that she was just a “little early” to come out with this stuff, pre-Twitter. “Damn it, I should have waited for Twitter,” Heigl replies. “I’d be huge.”
You can read the full interview here.
You can watch all 19 (yes, 19) seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Disney+.