Matt Sayles, Associated Press
Shonda Rhimes "Grey's Anatomy" executive producer Shonda Rhimes and "Ugly Betty" executive producer Silvio Horta field questions from critics.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — According to Shonda Rhimes, everything is just hunky-dory over at "Grey's Anatomy."

Never mind that cast member Katherine Heigl dissed the executive producer and her writing staff. Never mind that, for the second year in a row, rumors and innuendo surround the show.

"We have a really great story worked out (for Heigl) that we're all very excited about," Rhimes said. "And things are going fine."

Heigl, who won a supporting-actress Emmy last year, did not enter this year's competition because, "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination." No matter how you try to spin that, it's a direct attack on the show's writers.

As is her way — remember the whole Isaiah Washington-is-a-homophobe controversy? — Rhimes sort of dodged and weaved and pretended that all is fine on "Grey's." She wouldn't even agree that Heigl has dissed the writers.

"Did she?" Rhimes said, repeatedly insisting that she didn't think so.

Others disagreed.

"I would put her in a coma," said "Ugly Betty" executive producer Silvio Horta.

And yet Rhimes, who didn't address reports that Heigl's character, Izzie, is going to get a brain tumor, said she only found Heigl's statement "surprising."

"I actually have a really wonderful working relationship with Katherine, and I love and respect her as an actress. And as everyone knows, Izzie is one of my favorite characters, so for me it was surprising. But Katie is an outspoken person, and I think we all know that already."

Rhimes said she was surprised because, "In the first half of the season, she had a very strong storyline with George (T.R. Knight) that played out a lot more comedically than most of Katie's storylines have in the past. ... We had a lot of fun with it and she had a lot of fun doing it. And then in the back half of the season, Katherine asked me personally to write her light so that she could do her movie. So, I didn't feel insulted."

Um, really?

"I didn't feel insulted," Rhimes repeated.

It's not as if she hasn't been through this sort of thing before, what with Washington-vs.-Knight drama that erupted when Washington referred to his gay castmate with an offensive slur.

"I feel like I have a finely honed style from Season 3," said Rhimes, who blamed the press for blowing things out of proportion.

"The story that's out there in the press is generally one side of the story.... They report what they see. Sometimes that's not everything that's going on, and that's not everything that's underneath something," Rhimes said.

She said the cast is "like family ... know them in a way that a lot of people can't possibly. And I watched all of them go from being lovely young actors to incredibly famous people who are dealing with things that a lot of people can't imagine. For me it's about seeing it as people and really working from there."

However, when asked if something has been misreported about the Heigl story, Rhimes declined to answer.

She'll have to forgive any of us who are skeptical about her everything-is-fine stance. It's exactly the same one she had when the Washington controversy exploded.

Right up until she wrote him out of the show.

JUST WAIT: Unlike their "Grey's Anatomy" counterparts, the stars of "Ugly Betty" have pretty much managed to stay out of the tabloids for the past couple of years. How did Horta manage that?

"It's really up to them," he said. "We got very lucky with our cast, and it's kind of ..."

"It's coming," Rhimes interjected.

"I get told that this is the season it happens — Season 3," Horta said. "That's where things happen. I hope not."

BACKUP:"Desperate Housewives" executive producer Marc Cherry tried to pitch in and help when Rhimes was fielding Heigl questions. He offered his own explanation for the actress' statement.

"She was drunk," Cherry said. "Did that help you out, Shonda? I got your back."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com