Katherine Heigl for Stella Magazine

Stella Magazine Cover Feature

March 9, 2021 News0 Comments

In her January 31st cover feature for Stella, Katherine Heigl reflected on some difficult times in Hollywood. Speaking with the magazine, a supplement to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom, she also discussed her new Netflix drama Firefly Lane, psychological thriller Fear Of Rain and forthcoming mini-series Woodhull.

Firefly Lane charts the ups and downs of a lifelong friendship between two women, Tully Hart (played by Katherine) and Kate Mularkey (Sarah Chalke). Set in the Pacific Northwest, and dipping in and out of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, Katherine’s character is successful, single and sassy. ‘It was initially scary to get into Tully’s headspace because she is so confident,’ admitted Heigl. ‘But there is remarkable freedom in playing somebody like that. All your own neuroses take a back seat when you play a woman who is totally comfortable in her own skin and her own sexuality.’

Could it be that Katherine at 42, now has the opportunity to play more interesting characters than when she was younger and at the height of her success, interviewer Martha Hayes posed?  Katherine concurred. ‘This has been an amazing few years because it’s not over!’ she laughed. ‘I always knew there were lots of wonderful stories to tell about women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, but I didn’t know anybody would want to tell them. This is an industry, for women especially, that feeds on the young. I was the young, up-and-coming actress and you think you have an expiration date because, for a long time in Hollywood, you kind of did.’

Expiration dates are a subject that Katherine is familiar with, as there was a period in her career, a few years after her rapid rise to the top in 2007, when the tide turned against her. The backlash resulted from a few comments made in interviews, and because of those opinions she was branded ‘difficult’. Heigl was fighting against being cancelled before cancel culture was even recognized.

‘It was this giant snowball effect,’ Katherine recalled, shaking her head’. ‘The more conscious of it I was, the more afraid I was, and the more I would say something stupid. It was this vicious cycle. It was a public shaming. Even a little public bullying. And I took it really, really personally. It had me confused about my own worth because I put all my value in other people’s opinions and suddenly those opinions changed.’

Switching her focus to smaller projects that would keep her closer to home, Katherine and her family relocated to Utah from Los Angeles. ‘Getting out of the way for a while was very healing. It was a good time to just figure myself out. I’m not sure why I’ve spent such a long time not knowing who I am…’ Heigl observed.

It was a journey of self-healing and self-awareness through therapy, meditation crystals, reiki and acupuncture; things that she still practises today. ‘My thoughts controlled me,’ Katherine observed. ‘If I felt afraid that I wasn’t going to be liked or loved or appreciated, my reaction was always negative. So wanting to change that knee-jerk response was huge for me. I’m no guru, I still fuck it up regularly, but at least I’m trying now, whereas before, I didn’t even know to.’

Today, she is reflective but assertive and keen not to dwell on any regrets. ‘At this point in my life, I’m coming from less insecurity and uncertainty. I know what kind of person I am and I know there would be nothing that I could say that would be intentionally harmful to anybody, and if somebody chose to take it that way, that’s on them.’ She added, ‘There was something about turning 40 that felt like freedom to me,’ she reflects,  ‘I could settle into who I am and not apologise so much.’

Katherine and her mother, Nancy, who is also her manager, set up Abishag Productions in 2007. ‘Abishag’ is a character from the Robert Frost poem Provide, Provide. ‘It’s a reminder that youth, beauty and fame are not all I have and are not all that’s important to me,’ she says.

A voracious reader, Katherine has, since her 30s, been quietly optioning books for adaptation à la Reese Witherspoon (whose company Hello Sunshine produced TV’s Big Little Lies and Little Fires Everywhere). And while she’s not well known for pursuing this endeavour, that looks set to change with Woodhull. ‘I have such big hopes for this one,’ she says of the series. ‘It’s another extraordinary female role – they are out there.’

Would she consider producing a romcom, or are those days now long gone? ‘I hope not,’ laughs Katherine, who added The Ugly Truth (2009) and Life As We Know It (2010) to her repertoire post-Knocked Up. ‘I love doing them. I just have a tendency to overdo it. I think everyone was sick of my romantic comedies!’

I’m fascinated by the dynamic between Katherine and her mother Nancy, who has managed her career from the beginning (she started out modelling as a child), who gave her the ‘strength and courage’ to get through the toughest time in her career, and who is still, at 77, ‘very sharp, very smart and very capable’.

‘I don’t know how this happened,’ she says. ‘It’s not just because I love my mother and she loves me, but there is an ease about our relationship and mutual respect.’

The pair are so close that following her parents’ divorce in 1997, they moved into a house in Malibu together. Today, Nancy lives a stone’s throw away in Utah and is in a lockdown bubble with Katherine’s family, while her father lives in Atlanta. So Nancy is the Kate to Katherine’s Tully? ‘[If a best friend is] somebody that you see and talk to all the time, who’s intimately involved in your life, in your dreams, your loves and your wishes, well that’s my mom. We talk twice a day. We get our nails done together. We go grocery shopping. We have dinners together once a week.

‘But she’s still very much my mother. She still bosses me around and tells me what to do and I have to be like, “Mom! Calm down.” But there is an easy connection between us.’

One of four siblings growing up in Connecticut, Katherine describes her early years as ‘pretty tumultuous’. She was eight years old when her brother, Jason, was killed in a car accident at the age of 15. ‘It changes your life. It changes your family. Nothing was ever the same again,’ explains Katherine, who set up an animal rescue charity, The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, in 2008, as her brother’s legacy. ‘For my sister and me, it was about watching the people you most depend on and need, drowning. A year or two later we joined the [Mormon] church and it gave our family this stability, structure and purpose. It kind of saved our parents.’

Katherine doesn’t practise Mormonism today, but as mother to three children (Naleigh, 12, who she adopted from Korea as a baby, and named after her mother Nancy and her sister Meg Leigh, Adalaide, eight, who she adopted from the US, and Joshua, who she gave birth to in 2016), she is determined for their ‘childhood to be a childhood’.

Does she feel like she missed out on anything working from such a young age? ‘There were certain things I was bummed about missing, but my mother said to me, “Listen, you don’t have to do this, but if you really want to, then you have to learn now how to be a professional. You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”’

Katherine’s parents adopted six-month-old Meg from Korea three years before Katherine was born. Despite already having two biological children, they felt determined to give a home to a child who needed it.

The close bond she has with her sister had a profound impact on how Katherine would go on to build her own family. ‘I wanted my family to resemble the one I came from,’ she says. ‘My mother had three out of her body and one put into her arms, and said it does not influence love whether they are of your blood or not, because they are of your spirit. I always knew that. I knew I wanted to be a mother and I knew there were children who needed a mother.’

Katherine has been a stay-at-home mum for the best part of a year, thanks to the pandemic. It’s the longest she hasn’t gone out to work in, well, 30 years. But she appears to be taking it in her stride, despite having her hands full with three children, five dogs and three cats – not to mention the horses, chickens, goats, donkeys and pigs on the ranch.

‘This hasn’t been as hard on me as it has been for some because I like being home. I’m not missing parties. I’d like to stop having to make dinner,’ she laughs. ‘I look at the clock, like, “Is it time to make a drink, put the kids to bed and watch Bridgerton?”’

Jokes aside, Katherine and her husband are a creative pair who just might put us all to shame with their efforts during lockdown. Katherine has started a greenhouse and taken online courses in herbology; Josh makes leather satchels and built what Katherine describes as a ‘marriage-saving’ shack.

‘He’s so proud of his shack,’ she smiles. ‘He should be. It’s an awesome space. We’ll put Naleigh in charge: [the children] will be watching TV in our home and we’re in the shed! We’ve got a record player and faux-skin rugs and we’ll go in with cocktails, it’s so cosy.’

It sounds the ideal place to curl up and watch Firefly Lane. ‘I love how the show’s turned out,’ she says. ‘I always feel nervous like I’m overselling it and people could be like, “I didn’t think it was that good!” But I love it. I love the music. I love the look. I love the story.’

It’s about time, isn’t it? Katherine takes a deep breath. ‘For me, it feels like the culmination of all the things that I’ve learnt after all these years. It feels like a giant relief.’

The read the interview in full check out Stella magazine or the Daily Telegraph online.