TV Guide Magazine: How did State of Affairs lure you back into the spotlight?
Heigl: Executive producers Rodney Faraon and Hank Crumpton are ex-CIA. Rodney was on the briefing team for Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. They’d tell stories, and I’d think about how no one really talks about those analysts. There’s no real glory in the job, because they have to remain anonymous. There’s not a lot of money in it. Plus, the idea of playing a grown-up woman in a powerful position seemed really appealing to me.
TV Guide Magazine: How is she different from Izzie?
Heigl: Izzie had a very serious grown-up career, but she was — and I was — young. She was still fumbling around life. So I was excited to play a true adult.
TV Guide Magazine: You’ve said returning to TV isn’t a step backward. Are you tired of constantly defending your career choices?
Heigl: I find it interesting that people even ask if TV is a demotion. How can you say that and watch something like Matthew McConaughey in True Detective or Kevin Spacey in House of Cards?
TV Guide Magazine: The first episode has gone through many versions since you shot it. Has the process been nerve-racking?
Heigl: The pilot morphed from one thing to another and then back again, because, honestly, what Joe Carnahan made was so phenomenal. But I find the whole process fascinating rather than nerve-racking.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you ever disagree with where the writers want to take Charlie?
Heigl: Oh, yeah. That always comes up. But I think it does for every actor. There are moments where you’re like, “That’s not who she is, or who we’re trying to make her.” The beauty of also being a producer is they do have to at least hear me out.
TV Guide Magazine: Were there any changes you did insist on?
Heigl: My mother and I felt strongly that Charlie needs to have an intriguing love interest who is not dead like her fiancé. We added someone to the pilot.
TV Guide Magazine: Given recent events, why did you decide not to cut the beheading storyline?
Heigl: [Because] that was actually when I realized, “My God, what we’re talking about isn’t far-fetched.” The story we’re telling is relevant.
TV Guide Magazine: Charlie has a very high-security job with big secrets to keep. Can she trust her colleagues?
Heigl: Right now, Joe and I are arguing because he always wants to have someone either die or be really horrible. I’m like, “No, no, the team has to be the team! The audience has to be able to count on them. No one should be the secret bad guy.” We’ll see who wins the argument. I’m not sure!
TV Guide Magazine: On Grey’s, you stood up for yourself and said, “Look, I don’t think this material is good.” If a male actor did that, it might not have been a big deal.
Heigl: Yeah, I know, we’d have to write a book if we were to talk about that. Look, there are gracious, classy ways of doing what I did. Then the not-so-gracious and not-so-classy ways. I fell into the latter at that point in my life. I spent the next couple of years wobbling. If people keep saying something about you, you wonder if they’re right and you’re wrong. It’s uncomfortable to think, “My God, am I really this s–tty person?” But it wasn’t the end of the world either. There’s a lot worse I could have done. I’m always going to fight for the material to be great.