Heigl: Why I find it hard to make friends in Hollywood
When it comes to playing the 'cool girl,' Katherine Heigl has been preparing for her latest role all her life.
A platonic love story between two women spanning more than three decades, new Netflix drama series Firefly Lane sees Heigl as force of nature and alpha female Tully who shares a lifelong friendship with Scrubs standout Sarah Chalke, as her introverted friend Kate.
From their teenage years to adulthood, the BFFs traverse triumphs and tragedies while remaining each other's most enthusiastic cheerleader
As Heigl tells The BINGE Guide, it's a female-friendly story she's played out in real life.
"I have friends who I've known since middle school and I love these girls deeply, but the one girlfriend I talk to every single day and who is a part of everything I do is my mother," she says, with a laugh.
"I know that sounds odd but as I've gotten older and our relationship has evolved, she's starting to treat me like an adult." the 42-year-old enthuses.
Having been a working actress since the age of 14, Heigl confesses "it's [been] hard to make girlfriends in Hollywood."
Speaking candidly, the former Suits and Grey's Anatomy star says: "it's a competitive industry and there's this feeling that if somebody else gets the part, or if somebody else succeeds, then you are going to fail."
While "it's human nature to want to win and succeed," Heigl argues, "for some people, when you don't, it's hard to see other actresses as anything other than your competitor."
It's a bleak picture she paints, linking the intense rivalries with her own struggle with confidence and self-acceptance.
"Definitely insecurity plays a part, as does fear," she explains, "and I think we are all aware of the stereotype of female friendships where we don't trust each other. But I think that's really heartbreaking and sad and I don't know where it stems from. For me, it began in middle school with all that backstabbing and the unkindness and the belittling," she explains. "You suddenly start thinking of women as the enemy."
Nearly 30 years on, the married mother of three admits she still makes the "same mistakes" in her relationships, "so maybe I am just doomed to repeat myself. This sounds harsh but I think I'm a little overly trusting and I tend to lay myself bare to anybody," she says. "It doesn't always work out for me and it's often used against me, or used to make me feel isolated or alone."
It's been well-documented that her unfiltered opinions have landed her in hot water, most notably when she withdrew herself from consideration for the 2008 Emmy Awards, when she deemed her work on Grey's Anatomy (which she starred on from 2005-2010) unworthy of a nomination that year.
She suffered more backlash after she made disparaging comments about her breakout hit, Knocked Up, in 2007.
"I have a hard time holding myself back," she concedes, "I've not been careful enough and I've been really hurt," the sting of criticism clearly unforgotten.
Heigl is speaking via Zoom from her home in Utah, which she shares with her husband of 13 years, musician Josh Kelley, and their three kids: Naleigh, who they adopted in 2009 from South Korea (the birthplace of Heigl's adoptive sister).
They adopted a second daughter, Adalaide, in 2012 from the U.S., and in December, 2016, she gave birth to the couple's son, Joshua.
She describes the last year, enduring COVID-19 lockdown with three little ones at home, as "pretty chaotic."
"It's the first time since I've become a mother that I've been home with my children for a full year. And so there was a real grace to that and a silver lining where I got to just steep myself in that very important part of my life that very often gets compromised with work and travel."
There are challenges, of course, that can arise from too much togetherness.
"Well, I had to build an art studio for myself so I could be alone," she laughs, and says affectionately of her youngest child, four-year-old Joshua: "He never stops talking, just never stops talking. I didn't know boys could be so chatty!"
In Firefly Lane, Heigl also takes on an executive producer role.
"I'd read the book when it came out and it made me laugh and cry. It really resonated with me. Not only is it a beautiful story of friendship, but I knew it was going to be fun and an interesting challenge playing Tully from ages 19 to 43."
She adds with a chuckle: "They didn't ask me to play her at age 14 … that would not have gone over very well."
Aussie actor Ben Lawson plays a pivotal role as Kate's ex-husband, who also shares a long working history with Tully.
Interestingly, Lawson also shares a history with Heigl. "We worked together on a show called Doubt but he was very much a straight-laced lawyer. But now in this role, 'oh my God, Ben has one of the best senses of humour ever. He's hilarious and so deeply perfect in this role as Johnny."
COVID notwithstanding, what does a girl's night out look like for Heigl?
"Well, there will certainly be a drink in my hand, but I was raised Mormon, so all my girlfriends from middle school and high school are still practising and they don't drink. But holy crap are they a good time!" she roars. "It's crazy to me. I always thought, 'How can we let loose and have fun without a drink or two?' but these girls have got it down to an art. And they came up to visit me in Vancouver when I was shooting the show, which was so lovely and appropriate.
"We would sit outside around this fire pit and the sh*t we talked about made it the best girl night. Everyone was just truly themselves, laying bare and lots of conversations about our love lives with our husbands and lots of laughing."
She smiles: "There's a lot of the beauty in these friendships. We are all moms, so there's a lot of unloading about that. And just hanging out where no one is going to leak something to the press and you can tell your most embarrassing stories or all of your fears and laugh your ass off."
* Firefly Lane, streaming on Netflix
Originally published as Heigl: Why I find it hard to make friends in Hollywood