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Jake Borelli's Gay Grey's Anatomy Romance Is Making Us Ugly Cry

Jake Borelli's Gay 'Grey's Anatomy' Romance Is Making Us Ugly Cry

Jake Borelli's Gay 'Grey's Anatomy' Romance Is Making Us Ugly Cry

The out Grey's Anatomy star talks to PRIDE about THAT emotional ambulance scene.


Jake Borelli has had one hell of a year. 

ABC's timeless hit drama Grey's Anatomy introduced it's first openly gay surgeon, Dr. Nico Kim, to an uproar of gay screams. Borelli, who has played Dr. Levi Schmitt since last season, plays his closeted love interest, and the will-they-wont-they lovers' tumultuous romance over the fall season arc has left many LGBTQ viewers in shambles. 

Borelli, who came out as gay early this month alongside his television character's steamy elevator kiss with Dr. Kim, was thrilled to explore Dr. Schmitt's sexuality on the show. "As a gay guy myself, tonight's episode was so special to me," he wrote on Instagram. "This is exactly the kind of story I craved as a young gay kid growing up in Ohio, and it blows my mind that I'm able to bring life to Dr. Levi Schmitt as he begins to grapple with his own sexuality this season on Grey’s Anatomy."

PRIDE sat down with Borelli to discuss his queer Grey's Anatomy arc, publically coming out, THAT emotional ambulance scene in the mid-season finale, and the character's impact on his fans. 

PRIDE: After fourteen seasons of Grey's Anatomy, why was Season 15 the moment for the show's first two openly gay characters?

Jake Borelli: The show has always been a force and a fighter for representation within the queer community and they've done so many stories that are LGBT focused. Arizona and Callie Torres were such a huge and iconic relationship on the show for so long. I think what the show does really really well is when they get a story, they dive really deep into it and they're able to make it meaty and give it the time it deserves. They've done that a lot with the main LGBT storyline they had, which was Arizona and Callie. I think that now, it's really exciting they're looking further into the community and are interested in telling a storyline from a completely different perspective. I think it's really exciting. They've just been taking their time because they've been focusing on deepening and enriching that beautiful storyline that we saw over the last thirteen years. 

Why did you decide to come out in real life at the same time as your character on the show?

I knew coming into this industry that if I was going to continue acting and talking to audiences, at some point I was going to come out. I know me and I knew that at a certain point I was going to have to speak that truth for myself.

Within the last year-and-a-half, I've been given this wonderful opportunity to speak to a much larger audience and on a much larger platform. In my own coming out process, that was sort of the next step. I'd been out to my family and friends for the last decade almost and this was just sort of the next large group of people that I still hadn't come out to.

As we started shooting the show, I started to see how important the storyline was to people. When I was pitched the storyline, I knew right from the beginning that this was going to be big but I didn't realize just how big it was until the episode started to air. And this was even before my character came out. It was that five episode tease, will-they-wont-they, kind of deal, and I was already starting to get flooded by messages from fans of the show, how they specifically started to feel represented by this storyline for the first time and how important it was for them. They started sharing their personal stories with me just through Instagram or Twitter or whatnot and I was seeing their bravery and I knew, okay this is the time that feels right for me to be honest. If was going to enter into this dialogue in an honest and authentic way, that meant that I would need to come out. The stars aligned and I knew it was the right time.

Did you have a hand in crafting Dr. Levi Schmitt's storyline?

The writers have been really open in terms of asking me questions and really taking into account my own experiences, which has been really great. I had a meeting before we started season 15 with Krista Vernoff, the showrunner, and she asked me a bunch of questions about what I would want to see in terms of representing the queer community on the show and what stories I would like to tell through Levi. I was also able to open up about my own experiences with her, which was really nice. A lot of that stuff has been sprinkled throughout the character. I'm really grateful for that. 

What's your favorite moment on the show so far?

That [ambulance] monologue. We really get to see a backstory of Levi we haven't seen before and see him stand in his power for the first time. It's a really big testament to his character.

On the flip side, I also just really like the way he's been fumbly over the last year and a half. Those scenes are always super fun for me, being a bit of a clutz. I think I've fallen over probably five times over the last year and a half, which I think is always hilarious when I get one of those scenes. Some of them have been accidents because I'm also really klutzy in real life. Some of those moments that have made it on screen, I kind of look back and smile when I think of them. 

How many times do you have to fall on camera to get a good take

The scripted falls, yeah you do it a couple times. A stunt guy teaches me how to fall correctly. Some of the other ones where I did it on accident, it was a one-shot thing and they were like, "Okay just to be safe, don't do that again." and I was like, "I didn't do it on purpose the first time."

Let's talk about the scene that made every gay collectively sob. You and Dr. Kim. The ambulance. The rain. That monologue! "I didn't understand it, not until you kissed me. I felt the opposite of shame. I felt like I existed. For the first time, it felt like I was holding the sun sword." 

It's a huge testament to the writing of the show. That monologue was one of the most beautiful things that I'd ever read. I remember getting the script and I read it for the first time sitting back at my apartment and I started crying just from the first read. These writers have really dived deep into this character and are speaking from a true and honest place. That's the baseline of what makes this character so wonderful. But then also, the way he is as a human being, he's really just open and vulnerable and courageous in that way. He just lays it all out on the table. The fact that he is unashamed by it and unafraid of opening up is something that has really drawn me to the character and made me inspired by him. He's really loveable in that way and that's why I love him and that why a lot of the fans love him too. He represents someone who is sort of courageous in their vulnerability which I think is rare to see from one, someone so young, but also just on television in general. That's why I think it's really beautiful to have him be a part of the show. 

You've been openly embraced by the Grey's Anatomy stans and have quickly built up a fan base of your own. Why are the fans so rabid for you and your character?

The Grey's fans are fantastic. They're amazing! I think what draws them to this show and gets them so excited is that this show makes people feel seen. When you feel seen, even for the first time, you feel connected. That's what's beautiful about this project. It truly makes people feel connected. I've seen that on a first-hand basis when I meet some of these fans. We truly feel like we know each other and in a way, I feel like I know them too because of how they're expressing themselves online to me, how they're so open with their own stories. I think that's something so beautiful that this show does. 

Can you share a story about how one fan impacted you?

I've been reading them all. There's been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. I remember the night I came out, someone posted on my Instagram. I was sitting in my apartment reading them all. He was 13-years-old and he had posted how inspired he was by seeing this coming out story and by even reading my own coming out because he had just come out this past year.

He was so smart and so honest and so brave in what he wrote. He was saying that he wished back when he was still in the closet at twelve, he would've had a story like this. He's so grateful to have it now and that things are still hard for him. It still is really hard to grow up as a gay kid, but that these stories and this representation and the queer community having a platform is helping him. Which was so wonderful. But he was also coming at it from a much different angle where he was not even saying thank you for himself but saying thank you for the generation coming after him. As he put it, he was already out, but he was really excited for the people who are coming after him to have this story. Which as a 13-year-old is something that is so smart and connected and selfless. It really hit me. I think about it all the time. How this kid is so young and so quick to help the generation that was coming after him. I thought it was so magical. 

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a 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 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!