It is obvious from reading Katherine Heigl's lifestyle blog, ThoseHeavenlyDays.com, that the former Grey's Anatomy star has made a terrific life for herself and her family hundreds of miles from Hollywood on her ranch in Park City, Utah.
So what does it take to seduce her away from husband, singer/songwriter Josh Kelley; daughters Nancy Leigh, 8, and Adalaide, 4; and newborn son Joshua, born December 20, 2016; and their menagerie of dogs, chickens, goats and horses, and get her back on a soundstage? It takes some seriously good writing.
Heigl will star in the new CBS series Doubt, premiering tonight, as Sadie Ellis, a brilliant attorney at a boutique law firm who has always put work first until she falls for her new client, Billy Brennan (Steven Pasquale), a pediatric surgeon accused of murdering his girlfriend 24 years earlier. This unexpected turn of events gets her all shook up, and therein lies the drama.
"I was blown away by the premise, the character, and the overall story outline for the season," Heigl told reporters at a press conference for the new series. "It's really, really good. It's one of the best I had ever heard. I love playing smart, ambitious, talented women. Who doesn't? On top of that, she is charming, funny, sexy, and complicated. She's an actress' overall dream character."
Doubt is Heigl's second attempt at a series since her departure from Grey's Anatomy in 2010. In the Fall 2014 TV season, she starred and was an executive producer on the short-lived NBC show State of Affairs, playing Charleston Tucker, a CIA officer who segued from field work to become the president of the United States' daily briefer.
"State of Affairs was my first real opportunity to get involved with decisions like casting or storylines, or writers, or marketing," she says, proud of her work despite the fact that the series never found an audience. "It was really incredibly satisfying, incredibly fun for me, and a wonderful evolution of my career. I have been doing this for a long time, so to get to tell a story from the other side of the camera was extraordinary."
This time out for Doubt, Heigl is merely a hired hand, since the series, created by Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, who she had worked with previously on Grey's, was in place by the time she was cast.
But even though Sadie wasn't written with Heigl in mind, she does feel that the role is a perfect fit for her and not a big hop, skip and jump from Izzie Stevens.
"Sadie is more — I wouldn't say she's more ambitious than I am — she feels a bit more of a grownup than I do because my job feels like play; her job feels real," Heigl says. "We are similar in that she is a compassionate person, I think she cares very much about humanity, obviously, and the people she represents. I think that her first instinct is to believe in the inherent good in humanity, and, I hope, that's me as well."
But that isn't the only similarity between the two roles. Sadie's falling for Billy is comparable to the love story between Izzie and Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the patient with whom Izzie had a brief affair before his death on Grey's — but Heigl says she didn't see it until it was pointed out to her.
"It is similar in a way," she admits. "It's that forbidden love thing. It was really fun to play on Grey's Anatomy and, once again, it was fun to play on Doubt."
Tonight when Doubt premieres, the verdict will be in on whether or not the legal drama is a hit with viewers, but Heigl says she knew it was a special show after talking to Phelan and Rater, and even more so after working with her diverse group of castmates, including Dulé Hill, Elliott Gould, Laverne Cox, Dreama Walker and Kobi Libii.
"I noticed the dynamic among us as performers and as characters, the way we engaged with each other and made each other laugh," she says. "The chemistry we automatically had, made me realize it was not only great on the page, but it was coming alive in a really exciting, fun and engaging way. Those are the shows I most love to watch when there is that chemistry among the characters, I felt like we had that right away."