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The Thing About Harry Is the Gay Rom-Com Jake Borelli Wish He Had Growing Up

'The Thing About Harry' Is the Gay Rom-Com Jake Borelli Wish He Had

'The Thing About Harry' Is the Gay Rom-Com Jake Borelli Wish He Had

The film "validates the feelings that a lot of queer young people have that back when I was young, were never validated," Borelli told PRIDE.

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The Thing About Harry, Freeform's new romantic comedy premiering the day after Valentine's Day, takes an age-old formula and gives it a queer twist.

When straight-laced student Sam (Jake Borelli) is forced to drive his high-school bully Harry (Niko Terho) across the country for their mutual friend's engagement party, he's more than prepared to hate him and judge him for his numerous fleeting romances. But things come to a screeching halt (quite literally) when Harry comes out as pansexual. 

"The truth is, I admired you," Harry confesses to Sam. "You were out in Liberty, Missouri. Me? I was just too scared. That's why I made fun of you. You know that, right?"

Suddenly, Sam's relationship with the annoying jock gets complicated, especially when the sexual tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. 

Premiering this Saturday on Freeform and Hulu, The Thing About Harry is a charming love story that'll make you laugh, shed a few tears, and celebrate two men stumbling through life with their hearts on their sleeves, just trying to find love. 

PRIDE sat down for a chat with the film's star Jake Borelli and kiki'd over the power of queer love on screen, the value in LGBTQ+ people telling our own stories, working with Peter Paige, the lasting impact of landmark LGBTQ+ series Queer A Folk, and a few of the more colorful scenes from the movie. 

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PRIDE: Every time we post about The Thing About Harry on PRIDE, it gets a really exciting response from the LGBTQ+ community. Why do you think it's resonating so much already before it's even out?

Jake Borelli: Oh my gosh. First of all, that's wonderful news. I'm so excited that people are freaking out about it as much as I am. It's really the feeling that I got when I read it is why people are so excited about it. It's this feeling of seeing a rom-com, something that is unabashedly a rom-com through and through, but that shows queer love in a way that we haven't seen it in this genre. A lot of times if there's a queer person in a rom-com, they're sort of delegated to the side character roles. The person that helps the lady buy a wedding dress or helps a story move along. Maybe they have a partner, maybe they don't. Maybe they're having sex, we don't know. This movie, I think, values our love and it shows that our love stories are important to tell too. Our love stories deserve a huge platform like the one this story is getting. I think it's amazing. I truly think it's an amazing project.

You hit the nail on the head. We're so often the best friend that teaches you something around an hour and 15 minutes into the movie. You don't think about how rare these kinds of stories are, and then it happens...

Yeah, I think as queer people when we see projects growing up, we get so used to translating it into our experience and saying, "Oh, this is something that I've felt, and that's why I liked this movie." Where this is something we do not need to translate at all, you know what I mean? I see myself so strongly in Sam and I see myself so strongly in some of the other queer characters, and for the first time, I feel seen in a project like this. This is not a coming-of-age story. This is not about coming out. It's not about shame. It's just about love, and about finding love and holding onto that once you found it. It's really beautiful.

I watched Queer As Folk in college when I was first coming out and trying to learn more about myself and Peter Paige is definitely an icon for many, many gay men. What was it like working with him and getting to be in scenes with him?

Oh, it was fantastic. When I was offered the movie and found out it was coming from Peter Paige, I freaked out, and then I read the movie and realized exactly what it was, and I said yes immediately. I jumped on the chance to work with him. And the fact that he has now, sort of, become a mentor of mine, in terms of what he represents, of what I could become as a queer person in this industry. He models a life that I didn't even know was possible for someone like me, especially when I was growing up. I didn't believe it was possible and the fact that this relationship is mirrored in the movie as well.

His character Casey is a mentor for Sam, and we get to see this cross-generational queerness and how younger gay guys and gay guys who came before them have this very special relationship that is undefined in a lot of other straight relationships. It's a relationship of mentor-mentee, but also almost like father-son or brothers, and it's something really special that was so fun to explore with him because we were exploring that same relationship on and off camera too.

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Did you watch Queer As Folk when you were younger?

You know, I watched the British Queer As Folk, and it wasn't even when I was younger, it was when I was slightly older. I honestly think I was too young to watch something like that. It was groundbreaking and it was amazing, but it's obviously not geared towards a young audience and so I didn't see it when I was a kid, whereas this movie is.

This is a YA film, and it's the exact type of audience that needs to see it. Granted, I looked up to Peter so much, and I've seen Queer As Folk now and he has inspired me so strongly, and all of the work he's done with The Fosters and Good Trouble, and all the boundaries he's pushed has really made him an icon in this community, and it was so massive to get to work with him.

The love story with your character Sam and Niko Terho's character Harry is very relatable. It plays with the idea of that straight guy that many a gay men were secretly in love with in high school, and then suddenly he pops up again and there's an actual chance to be with him. 

We play with a lot of these tropes that are in queer culture, and I think it's a lot of similar tropes that are played in normal rom-coms, too. You know what I mean? It's like the hot, swanky bachelor that has an airplane and a good-paying job and he comes in and you have the ability to fall in love with him. I think that's a similar trope that queer people see with all these people that they have crushes on when they're younger, but know that it's forbidden. This is a moment where we get to see that story play through the end and in an honest and very authentic way that we see both sides of it. We see in the movie why Harry was the way he was in high school. It's almost like a redemption story for him too, as well as a fantasy for Sam. It gets a lot deeper than all of that, and a lot more twists and turns, but yeah, there's certainly something interesting about using that trope.

What was your personal favorite scene in the movie?

Oh my gosh. I loved the Pride scene, just because I've been wanting to do a scene like that for long to really show what it's like inside Pride for young queer people. Especially like a very straight-laced queer person, and how Pride can bring them out of their shell and let them experience something that they don't normally allow themselves to experience. It was just so fun, the fact that we had a room full of queer people and a drag queen, and getting to play drunk. That was so fun, and it just felt like a very freeing experience. It was so fun.

That scene was one of my favorites too!

Also, Pride directed by Peter Paige was nuts.

Why was it nuts? 

It was just so fun. I think it was a sense of like, when you're playing queer with people, when you're working with other people who aren't queer, I think there's always this sense of, "Are we doing this right? Are we being offensive? Are we going too far? Is this a caricature? What's the fine line there?" Where in this movie, because I'm queer and I was playing a queer character and Peter's queer, he was directing and wrote this movie, it almost felt like we had this confidence that anything we do is kind of okay because it represents our part of the queer community. We had the ability to just say, "You know what? This is how I am in a bar. This is how some queer bars are," and just through telling our own story we were telling an authentic queer story, and there was a lot less fear involved. I think it was really beautiful.

You hear that kind of comfort a lot with women who work with women directors for the first time. It's a kind of familiarity.

Yeah, you don't have to explain anything. You don't have to translate anything. I didn't have to tell him why I had certain ideas that I had. I didn't have to say, "This is why it happened," because I'm queer and these are the things that have happened. It was just like, "Yo, Peter, this is what happened one time. Let's do it," and he's like, "Oh my God. Yes, that happened to me one time. Let's do it." You know? It was so easy.

We both know there aren't very many queer, LGBTQ+ rom-coms out there, especially when we were younger. What do you think The Thing About Harry is going to mean to people? What do you think it would have meant to you if you had this when you were in your formative years?

I think young queer people growing up now and seeing a movie like this, I think it really validates their love, and I think that it shows them that their love is worthy of a whole movie about it. And the fact that this movie is backed by Freeform and Disney, these huge companies that are really giving us a platform to tell our stories in an authentic way, I think it's so important and it validates the feelings that a lot of queer young people have, that back when I was young, were never validated.

I think it will just show so many ideas of who we can become as queer people as we get older, and to grow up in a world where that is something that's valued, I think is really important.

The Thing About Harry premieres Friday, February 15 on Freeform and Hulu. Watch the trailer below.

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!