Actress Katherine Heigl: 'Right now I'm hanging out with my kids and being a mum'
Katherine Heigl's villanous new role couldn't be further removed from the romcoms that made her famous. The actress tells Jeananne Craig why she was ready for a change
When you hear the name Katherine Heigl, most cinema-goers think of romantic comedies, like Knocked Up and 27 Dresses. But the actress' latest role, in twisted new thriller Unforgettable, couldn't be further from the sweet and funny fare for which she's become known.
Heigl plays mother-of-one Tessa Connover, a woman struggling to cope with the break-up of her marriage when her ex-husband David (Geoff Stults) gets engaged to his new partner, Julia (Rosario Dawson).
Tessa's jealousy takes a dark turn, and things end up spiralling out of control - with potentially lethal consequences.
Smiling widely (a relief to see, after watching her villainous portrayal shortly before we meet), the 38-year-old - who won an Emmy for her five-year stint as Dr Izzie Stevens in TV medical drama Grey's Anatomy - admits she enjoyed taking her career in a different direction.
"I don't know that it's more enjoyable [than my usual parts], but it is enjoyable," says the actress, looking chic in a black turtle neck, her blonde hair pinned back in soft waves.
"There's this challenge to it - she's such a complicated and multi-faceted character.
"And as a person that loves to perform, and dive into different people and personalities and lives, it's always fun to dive into one that's super-juicy."
There aren't many who would have sympathy for Tessa - who, as director Denise Di Novi notes, "is very extreme and does some very hateful things" - but Heigl can see what makes her behave so badly.
"It was really important to me from the get-go to try to get the audience to have some sympathy and compassion for her, to maybe understand why she is the way she is."
Heigl, who's married to singer Josh Kelley, adds: "She only feels of true value when there's a man who values her, or is with her, and that's horribly heartbreaking and awful. I think that she had this vision in her mind of what her family was and what her future would be and how it would look.
"She thought she could control that and now it's falling apart. She can't understand the new reality, she can't take it."
It's been an eventful few months for the actress, who welcomed a son, Joshua, in December with Kelley.
The pair also have two adopted daughters, Naleigh and Adelaide.
She admits the film got her thinking about what would happen if the life she's built for herself was shattered.
"You can't help but wonder, 'What would I do if my husband and I got divorced and he moved on with someone else? How would I behave in that circumstance?'
"I hope I'd handle it with some dignity, but it would still be heartbreaking.
"It is the death of all the dreams you had for your family and your future together."
Her Unforgettable co-stars are full of praise for Heigl, who's been plagued with rumours of being difficult to work with in the past.
She made headlines after branding the 2007 comedy Knocked Up (in which she played a TV presenter who falls pregnant by Seth Rogen's stoner character) "a little sexist".
She also faced scrutiny when she withdrew herself for consideration at the 2008 Emmys for Grey's Anatomy, claiming that the material on the long-running hit TV series did not warrant a nomination. Her reputation for being tricky seems to have affected her career, with less high-profile, big-screen roles in recent years, and she admits to finding the rumours upsetting.
"Nobody wants to hear things like that about themselves," says Heigl.
"Then it becomes a whole, like, 'Have I been...? What have I done?', and then maybe I go a little too far in beating myself up or self-evaluation or not trusting my own instincts."
The star, who started out as a model aged just nine, and made the move into acting alongside Gerard Depardieu in 1994's My Father The Hero, admits that at times, she's wanted to step away from showbiz altogether.
"That probably happens every couple of years, since I was 15. I think everybody maybe in their career feels that way, especially if you've been at it for a really long time.
"You have these ups and downs and ebbs and flows, and this thing you were so passionate about and that was your heart and soul has now turned on you, and it's your mortal enemy instead of your best friend..."
Heigl seems blissfully happy in her home life, which, happily for the actress, sounds a million miles away from Tessa's turbulent world in Unforgettable.
She, Kelley and their brood live on a ranch in Utah where, in her rare downtime, Heigl writes entries about crafting and food for her lifestyle blog, Heavenly Days.
"I'm mostly just hanging with the kids right now and doing the mom thing," says Heigl, smiling. "It's been great."
Unforgettable is in cinemas now