Katherine Heigl

The new season of Grey's Anatomy will feature more character-centric episodes, but less Katherine Heigl, TVGuide.com has confirmed.

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Heigl will take a leave of absence to work on her big-screen project, Life As We Know It, a new romantic comedy from Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters).

Izzie's departure, which was first reported by Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello, will be explained on-screen, and a source tells TVGuide.com it will involve her being fired after Seattle Grace merges with rival hospital Mercy West. Her temporary exit will begin in November and will overlap with fellow cast member Ellen Pompeo's maternity leave. With regular cast member T.R. Knight not returning, won't the hospital halls feel awfully empty?

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Never fear. The show has added three new doctors to the cast — to be played by Nora Zehetner, Robert Baker, and Jesse Williams. The trio of new actors will all play doctors from Mercy West, a source says. Additionally, an ABC rep says that more character-centric episodes this season will help distract from the other absences.

Heigl recently complained about her 17-hour work days on the show, which earned some harsh words from ABC president Steve McPherson at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. "There are so many people who work unbelievably hard on Grey's... so I think it's really hard for them to hear [her complain about working a 17-hour day]," he said.

What do you think of Heigl's leave of absence? Are you going to miss all your Seattle Grace regulars?

Additional reporting by Natalie Abrams