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State of Affairs” star Katherine Heigl was asked to address speculation that she and her mother are “difficult to work with” at NBC’s Television Critics Assn. summer press tour presentation Sunday.

Seeming momentarily unsure how to answer, a flustered Heigl haltingly offered, “I certainly don’t see myself as being difficult. I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly, so if I’ve ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional.”

Showrunner Ed Bernero attempted to come to Heigl’s defense and answer the question in her stead, but the reporter insisted that Heigl respond.

The star once described Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up” as “a little sexist” and criticized the movie’s portrayal of its female characters: “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy?” she told Vanity Fair after the film’s release.

Heigl also caught heat in 2008 for revealing that she withdrew herself from Emmy contention while she was on “Grey’s Anatomy” because, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”

A year and a half later, Heigl departed “Grey’s Anatomy” after being released from her contract early.

While the reporter also asked Heigl whether she thinks some of the criticism she’s received in the press is due to the fact that she’s an outspoken woman in an industry that doesn’t want to hear what actresses really think, Heigl didn’t seem to remember that portion of the question and didn’t address it in her response.

The actress did admit that while she loves watching romantic comedies and enjoyed starring in them, she was worried that she was no longer “exercising [the] different muscles of my ability” with her most recent big screen endeavors, and that “State of Affairs” was “an extraordinary role and an extraordinary story” that she couldn’t pass up.

Executive producer Joe Carnahan told reporters that “State of Affairs” aims to “create something that would move in lockstep with a cable program. We really needed to endeavor to do something that was a step beyond [regular broadcast shows]… In laying out these first 12-15 episodes, in terms of the progression of dramatics and pathos, it’s really impressive. Our goal is to outdo what in cable has become the standard-bearer.” He confirmed that NBC has not put any restrictions on them in terms of content, and has pushed them to be competitive with cable’s brand of storytelling.

Bernero agreed, “There’s nothing that cable does that we can’t do.”

“Except show boobs,” Heigl wryly added.

Alfre Woodard co-stars opposite Heigl as the President of the United States, and noted that since the “world didn’t spin off its axis” when a black president was elected, the “gorilla in the room” is the fact that she’s a woman playing a president. She voiced hopes that people would grow used to hearing characters say “Madam President” in their living rooms so that they would be comfortable saying it in real life when the first female president is finally elected.

Heigl plays a CIA analyst tasked with giving the president her daily briefing on global security concerns. Carnahan directed the pilot for Universal TV. According to a recent Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections from four major ad buyers, “State of Affairs” is expected to generate the most commercial viewership among freshman scripted programs in the 2014-15 season in viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers.

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