Katherine Heigl kind of disappeared for a while. She was busy raising two kids, loving on rescue dogs, and starring in the occasional ensemble movie or sleep aid commercial. This fall, she returns in a big way with the NBC drama State of Affairs, playing a hardened CIA analyst tasked with keeping the President (played with great steeliness by Alfre Woodard) informed of the most pressing threats to national security.
While Heigl might have been lying low the last several years, stories of her supposedly bad reputation took flight. Rumors of her “difficult nature”—a phrase, by the way, that one rarely sees pinned on a male star, as is it has the condescending whiff of a naughty girl refusing to act nice—hit a peak with a scathing 2013 story in The Hollywood Reporter that blamed Heigl’s lagging career on her bad attitude. Her crimes included, among other things, daring to question whether Judd Apatow occasionally underwrote his female characters and complaining about the quality of craft services on set. This counted as career suicide in a town inhabited by Charlie Sheen.
In an interview with EW about State of Affairs, I asked Heigl what’s the best advice she’s been given on rising above a persistent rumor mill. She laughed and described the scene at the summer TCA press junket when a reporter asked her in front of the entire room why she’s so difficult. She stammered through a polite answer and then retreated to a cocktail party in honor of the show. There, she said, her new, beloved co-star Woodard circled the wagons. “Alfre just took my mom’s face in her hands,” she says, “and went ‘Read my lips: F— those assholes!’ And it’s Alfre, so you believe her.”
For more on State of Affairs, pick up this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday.