Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Katherine Heigl

Legend has it Steven Bochco uttered this famous phrase. He supposedly once advised a showrunner on the relationship between him and his stars:

“The first year they work for you, the second year you work together, the third year you work for them.”

Unless the star’s name is in the show title that is a pretty accurate assessment of the dynamic between producer and actor.

Actors are initially beholden to the creator/show runners. Usually when they come in to read they’ll ask if the creator wants it a certain way. They’re there to please. They’re there to impress. I’ve yet to have an auditioning actor tell me, “I really can’t say this line.” Creators often times really champion the actor, fight for him or her to the studio and network.

At the beginning there’s a lovefest. Then the series gets picked up and somewhere along the line things go awry.

I should emphatically mention that this is the exception, not the rule. Most writers and actors are open and collaborative. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of these shows and when the creative process works it can really be a joy. Not to mention the end product is better.

But from time to time you hear of friction. And people not speaking to each other. And Coke cans being hurled at a writer’s head. Stars become monsters.

The argument is always made that struggling actors have it tough. And they do. Until they make it (IF they make it), their job description is “Get rejected”. “How’d it go today, honey?” “Eh, a little slow, I was only rejected twice. But I’m thinking of auditioning for students films so I can get rejected by kids half my age for projects that pay no money.” It’s humbling and demoralizing and you can understand why resentment builds up. But why take it out on the person who DID hire you?

Plus, it’s no picnic for struggling writers either. They can’t find agents, they can’t get their scripts to the right people. They have to keep churning out material with no guarantee that anyone will read it including their spouses.

So “dues” is no justification for disrespectful behavior.

Actors sometimes have no idea how long and hard their writers work – to make THEM look good. A script is in trouble. They go home, have a lovely evening, get a good night’s sleep, and magically in the morning a new script is on their doorstep. The script elves must’ve been up all night. On a multi-camera comedy the schedule is usually three weeks on and one week of hiatus. For the actors. The writers never have a hiatus. Dave Hackel, one of the best and most organized showrunners I know used to jokingly fine any actor who asked him where he went on the hiatus. He went to the office for fourteen hours every day! That’s where he went!

Writers work tirelessly trying to make the best possible shows they can. They don’t always succeed. Some are just not that great. But the effort is always there. Without the recognition, without the glory, without the vacation once a month.

Was Katherine Heigl within her rights to complain about the material she was given? Absolutely. It’s hell for an actor to have to play something they don’t believe in. And do it in front of twenty million people. But it was not okay for her to call out her writers publicly, to embarrass them in front of the world.

If she wanted to pull out of Emmy consideration, fine. Just say she felt there were other more deserving performances this season. That’s all. Simple. Gracious. Easy.

Is that so much to ask?

Even after the third year?


Anonymous said...

Who's Katherine Heigl? Seriously, I never heard of her.

Anonymous said...

Never mind! I kept reading and now I am up-to-date on yet another dumb blonde.

Rob said...

Has Heigl really had to struggle or was she lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time?

She's right that the writing on Gray's Anatomy hasn't been great this year, but it has also been stated that the show busted its ass to work around her film schedule.

Heigl's attitude problem will be her downfall. From her bitching and moaning at the whole Isaiah Washington thing to the correcting of the announcer at the Oscars to her trashing of Knocked UP to this ridiculous mess, I think she'll be yesterday's news in a couple of years.

For me the perfect sendoff for her character would be to have her call the two chicks who are getting involved with each other some sort of gay slur, then having all the other people in the Hospital rallying to have her fired.

Anonymous said...

Oh THAT Katherine Heigl.

Anonymous said...

She shouldn't be fired (that's probably what she wants so she can focus on films). She should be forced to spend the rest of her contract resuscitating deer.


Anonymous said...

I've said this before when Heigl's came up in your previous post, but she seriously thinks she's the other girl who saved Hollywood from itself. Don't get me wrong, I like Katherine (for many reasons, not the least of which is her relationship with her family--the closeness), but, man, she needs to get over herself. You don't want to be nominated for an Emmy because the writing was sub-par on your one-trick pony of a show? Okay, i get that, nobody wants to be nominated for something that may be crap. But what you don't do is trash the writers in the process. and if I was writing on that show, unless somebody forced me not to, Heigle be getting nothing but background story and she's be taking a long vacation from which she might not come back.

Heigle needs to be reminded that it ain't her show--there's a reason it's called Grey's Anatomy.

ByJane said...

I stopped watching Gray's because I cannot bear Katherine Heigl's. Hubris is only one of the words that come to mind when I see/hear her.

Anonymous said...

Y'know, when I first read about this, I thought 'good for her'.

I have watched maybe one entire episode of Grey's Anatomy (as well as bits and pieces over the years) and I must say that while I literally HATE the writing on that show, the actors strike me as ranging from pretty to very good.

That said, no doubt the tone of the show was set when Hegel signed onto it in the first place - so who is she to complain NOW - not to mention I guess it WAS tacky to diss the writers so publicly.

Anonymous said...

As Ken mentioned in the previous entry on Katherine Heigl, she once co-starred with Steven Seagal. Cockpuncher himself (as "The Onion Movie" puts it). She really has glorious insight on choices in writing.

Anonymous said...

mmmmm....Katherine Heigl....

I'm sorry...again...wha...

Oh look...doughnuts!!!

Bitter Animator said...

I imagine this will only result in the writer's equivalent of gobbing on her pizza but I think she had an opinion, shared it and so what? Isn't that what we all do? Especially those of us with a blog? Have you only said nice things about everyone, Mr.L?

By Ken Levine said...


I don't take issue with any of her complaints, just her airing her dirty laundry in public.

Anonymous said...

She ran her yap about "Knocked Up" being sexist as well. For some reason, she can't just appreciate her success.

Anonymous said...

Luckily for her SAG will be on strike soon so she'll get a break from the torture that the writers have subjected her to.

I'll bet those scripts will look pretty good once the paychecks have stopped and her mortgage bills keep showing up.

Anonymous said...

I just crossed Heigi off my to do list!

Anonymous said...

So, I take it, Ken, that if someone came to you with the offer of writing for a TV series starring Naomi Campbell, you would...

Dimension Skipper said...

Today's "Dave on Demand" column in The Philadelphia Inquirer features David Hiltbrand's musing on the Katherine Heigl flap...

Losing ways

There's nothing more annoying than a sore winner.

Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy told the Los Angeles Times this week that she has withdrawn her name from Emmy consideration, explaining "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention."

You have to wonder if she knows how pretentious and petulant this announcement makes her sound.

First of all, it's not like she was a lock to win this thing. When she took Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series last year, it was her first Emmy. In fact, it was her first nomination.

And even that was a huge upset. Not only was she not the best supporting actress, she wasn't even the best actress from her own show in the category. (Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson were also nominated.) So for her to act like this Emmy stuff is old hat to her is wildly arrogant.

Then she managed to insult the writers of Grey's Anatomy. This may have escaped your notice, honey, but there was a writers' strike this year. Nobody had a good season.

It's hard to imagine previous generations of TV pros acting this supercilious. Could you see Patty Duke, Betty White, Carol Burnett, Holland Taylor, or Mary Tyler Moore making a gesture this haughty and dismissive?

Heigl not only looked a gift horse in the mouth, she insulted its dental work.

(Note: I inserted the bold emphasis.)

Anonymous said...

She was out of line but she still has great cans.

Anonymous said...

In fairness there, rory, Heigl was about 16 when she made Under Siege 2. I seriously doubt she turned down a variety of Oscar-worthy projects in favor of working with Seagal. Also, the first Under Siege was pretty good, with director Andrew Davis and co-star Tommy Lee Jones going on to do The Fugitive. One could probably forgive young Heigl for thinking it was smart to take the female lead in the sequel.

The more I read that Emmy statement, the more I wonder if Heigl even read it. I can imagine her publicist saying "Hey, I drafted an answer to that O'Neill guy's question about the Emmy thing -- want to sign off on it?" KH: "Nah, I trust you. Nobody's gonna care anyway." Not saying that lets her off the hook.

Anonymous said...


I am disturbed that you should know so much about a Steven Seagal movie, like it's title for instance, let alone facts about it.

Beaver, I'm very disappointed in you.

I was having dinner with some folks once, some years back, and the one I was meeting for the first time began talking about the new (at that time) Steven Seagal movie, which he'd just seen that afternoon.

Me: You went and saw a Steven Seagal movie?

Him: Yes.

Me: Why?

Him: I was interested in seeing it.

Me: Why?

Him: It just opened.

Me: So? All of his films have opened at one time or another, but that's no reason to see them. I'm just curious, because I know you are an intelligent man, and I can not think of one single reason for anyone with a functioning brain to see a Steven Seagal movie.

Him: Some of them are entertaining.

Me: Now I know you're having me on.

Him: No. Really.

Me: I mean if you were being paid to see it, I mean like a LOT of money, I could maybe understand it. If someone paid me, then I might see one, but it would have to be at least 4 figures.

Him: No. I just enjoy them. I thought it was okay.

I've never seen this person again, except on TV. (He's a recognizable TV actor.) How can you respect someone who voluntarily watches Steven Seagal movies? Lorne Michaels still lists Seagal as the worst host SNL has ever had, in over 30 years.

As for Heigl, has The Academy thanked her yet for saving their integrity? God knows without her, they would be a corrupt and sinister Organization of Evil, like SPECTRE, CHAOS, THRUSH, or The Bush Family. How have they managed without her?

No? No note from The Academy? Ungrateful bastards!

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

what if the writers suck? it could happen, you know. Sure, you have a laugh track to pick up the slack for you, but these guys write for shows with no laugh track at all. That's right Ken, some shows have no laugh track, and that means they have to rely on the writing. Writing that sucks.

Anonymous said...

If the writng sucks, you're going to have a bad show. TV is full of shows with sucky writing.

But the public is not the place for a PROFESSIONAL actor to air their writing complaints. She may well be right about the quality of her scripts. I didn't watch any this season because last seasson bored me so much, so I suspect she might be right.

But who would want to hire her now? I wouldn't. Do you win over the writers to give you stuff you like better by spanking them in public, from a pretentious, lofty, more-integrity-than-thou tone?

And in any event, she said, as has been repeated several times above, she was doing it "in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization."

Since when do they need her help in maintaining their own integrity? She's insulting The Academy as well as the writing and producing staff of this show she is not the star of. Look for her character to end up in a coma this season.

Laura Deerfield said...

"She's insulting The Academy as well"

That was my thought. It's tacky enough to make a public gesture when you have a disagreement with your work partners - but to assume that the Emmy Awards need her to point out that she sucked this year (whether it was her fault or her writers, whatever), is wow - arrogant.

Anonymous said...

d. - It may make you feel better to know that the first Under Siege is the only Seagal film I've seen to date. It actually got lots of good notices at the time, and I did enjoy it.

But if I accept the writing gig I'm meeting about tomorrow morning, you'll REALLY be disappointed. I'll offer no details - let's just say there's a whopping coincidence afoot here.

Emily Blake said...

Earlier today I was at a panel of TV writers and someone in the audience asked the writers what they thought of this fiasco.

They were all pretty much in agreement: "She's trying to get off the show to pursue her movie career, but no matter what her intentions I will never hire her on my show."

I hope for her sake her films continue to perform because she's going to have a hell of a time trying to land another television job.

Anonymous said...

JB, you're one up on me. I've never seen any of Seagal's films, just clips on The Soup. I saw his episode fo ROSEANNE (The final season. My eyes! They burn!) and his hosting gig on SNL, which has not, I believe, ever been repeated.

Good luck on your interview for your plainly embarassing, pay-the-rent gig. Just remember, as I've learned from my plainly embarassing, pay-the-rent gigs, thanks to DVD, they never go away.

Joshua James said...

Lorne Micheals may list Seagal as one of the bad SNL hosts, but I doubt the worst . . . according to many reports, Louise Lasser, Milton Berle and Frank Zappa were far worse.

And according to the book of interviews on the subject, the host most consistently hated by every cast he's contact with is Chevy Chase.

Anonymous said...

The most interesting thing about everyone hating Chase was that only Tim Meadows seemed to understand him.

If only Tim Meadows understood where I was coming from, I'd know I was doing something very wrong.

IIRC, there's a passage in that book that mentions the late Donald Pleasance was so drunk they just had him do the monologue and shuffled him off stage for the rest of the show.

D. McEwan: I sometimes catch bits and pieces of the cheap straight to video actioners starring Seagal that appear on basic cable. It's rather astonishing how slipshod they are, then you realize how much they're working around the "star" and his limitations. Even his voice is redubbed for some scenes. Working with this man must be pure hell.

Anonymous said...

Well Lorne Michaels would never list Chevy as one of their worst hosts, since he still maintains a close personal friendship with Chevy, but I've read that same book you cite, and yup, most of the cast memebers who've tolerated one of Chevy's hosting gigs detested him.

But I have read and seen interviews with Lorne where he cites Segal as the worst, more so even than Lasser (I remember that once-only-broadcast train wreck), Berle, Pleasance, or Zappa. He even said it ON the show once.

Anonymous said...

Going off-track here, but Don Rickles was horrible as a SNL host. I remember him taking a couple of sketches obviously off-track adlibbing and breaking character. I don't recall Seagall--I guess I should be grateful for that.

adam ___________________ said...

I'm sure, Mr. Levine, that you've read Charlie Hauck's book Artistic Differences. It seems pretty much right in line with what you're talking about -- to an extreme degree maybe.

And I'm assuming everybody saw Chuck Lorre's episode of CSI?

These examples aren't quite on par with Heigl's comment. But it's on par with the Mr. Levine's 3 season rule. And actors whose names are in the title of a show...

TCinLA said...

I just hate it when some egomaniacal airheaded bimbo like Katherine Heigle (who has little flat ones, btw, for you guys who do your thinking with the little head), who has nothing to recommend her to enjoy the success she has, comes on like this. No wonder people put "no actors need apply" in their personals ads.

The existence of delusional morons like her are also a good explanation of why SAG has its head up its ass on the current negotiations. A whole crowd of delusional morons, acting like they have a clue what they're doing as they accelerate toward the cliff ahead.

Tom Dougherty said...

She's not a good enough actress to transcend any of this hubbub for long. She insulted the writer/director of her only big screen hit "Knocked Up" similarly, and not too long ago. She's built a reputation for being a difficult, bland actress who can't launch a movie.