Career revival: Katherine Heigl takes another crack at TV success

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Jacqueline Spendlove / TV Media
Katherine Heigl stars in "Doubt"

Katherine Heigl stars in "Doubt"

After almost a decade of career ups and downs and more than one helping of humble pie, Katherine Heigl is returning to the format that made her famous, donning her prime-time drama hat once more. The actress was at the top of her game in the mid-to-late 2000s, making a name for herself with starring roles in "Grey's Anatomy," "Knocked Up" (2007) and "27 Dresses" (2008).

Following some less-than-gracious comments on her part, however, and whispers that she wasn't the easiest person to work with, Heigl's once-auspicious career began to fizzle. She's ready to put any negativity of her past behind her now, as she takes the lead role in "Doubt," a midseason legal drama premiering Wednesday, Feb. 15, on CBS.

"Doubt" marks the second return to television for Heigl since her Emmy-winning role as Dr. Isobel Stevens in the hit medical drama "Grey's Anatomy." She left the show in 2010 after six seasons among the main ensemble cast, wanting to turn her attention toward the silver screen.

Her career since then has been respectable enough, with frequent starring roles in admittedly less-than-thrilling movies, as well as some production work. Needless to say, she hasn't exactly become the sought-after Hollywood icon she may have envisioned.

With Izzy Stevens remaining one of her more successful roles -- and the one that brought her to prominence -- it made sense for her to seek success on the small screen again. She headlined the cast of NBC's CIA-based thriller "State of Affairs" in 2014, but the show didn't survive past its first season.

Here's hoping "Doubt" proves more successful. In the series, Heigl stars as Sadie Ellis, a sharp-as-a-tack attorney at a prestigious law firm. She takes the case of Billy Brennan (Steven Pasquale, "Rescue Me"), an altruistic young pediatric surgeon who's been accused of murdering his girlfriend 24 years prior. Things get complicated when Sadie and Billy develop feelings for one another, which, with relationships between lawyers and clients being strictly taboo, she strives to hide from her colleagues.

One thing that can be said for Heigl's success or failure in her latest venture, she's at least surrounded by a strong cast. "Ray Donovan" star Elliott Gould plays Isaiah Roth, a legendary attorney who heads up the firm and whose approval is much sought after by his underlings. Albert Cobb (Dulé Hill, "Ballers") is Sadie's close friend, who knows practically everything about her -- except for the extent of her relationship with her client. Nick (Kobi Libii, "Alpha House") is a former felon who earned his degree while behind bars, and Tiffany Simon (Dreama Walker, "The Good Wife") is a fresh-faced second-year associate, still learning the ins and outs of the job from Cameron Wirth.

Dulé Hill as seen in "Doubt"

Dulé Hill as seen in "Doubt"

"Orange Is the New Black" star Laverne Cox is breaking ground in the role of Cameron: she's the first transgender actress to play a trans character in a series regular role on broadcast TV. An impressive lawyer with an Ivy League background, Cameron has experienced her share of social injustice first-hand as a trans woman, and that makes her fight all the harder for her clients who have faced similar treatment.

"Our cast and the stories we want to tell are multicultural, multigenerational," said executive producer Tony Phelan at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "That's the world we're in. We're going to be telling stories from a broad swath of America."

That -- as well as the noted diversity in the cast -- is a major bright point for the network, which took some criticism at last summer's TCA presentation for its track record of a lack of diversity; indeed, the fall roster of new CBS shows was loaded with white male leads.

"We need to do better and we know it," admitted CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller, who went on to point out Cox's milestone role along with a number of other casting choices that reflect that need for diversity in prime-time programming.

As far as recurring and one-off characters, those casting choices remain to be seen, but there's sure to be a lot of room to branch out with minor characters, as well. With Sadie and Billy's complicated relationship at the center of the show, the series also presents a case-of-the-week format that includes everything from minor disputes between neighbors to violent hate crimes and sexual assault.

Additionally, we'll get into the back stories and personal lives of the supporting cast as well -- it's not all the Sadie and Billy show: "I think that as we get to know the personal lives of these characters, it's really juicy," Cox affirmed at the TCA panel.

The show certainly has promise, to say the least. Only time will tell whether it's the reboot to her career that Heigl's been looking for, but regardless, we should be in for some good TV. Watch the premiere of "Doubt" when it airs Wednesday, Feb. 15, on CBS.