Jake Borelli by Maxwell Poth.
Whether he is providing glimmers of hope or effortlessly building a bridge between bittersweet moments, Jake Borelli is growing and inspiring others more and more everyday. As the beloved medical drama Grey’s Anatomy gears up for its season finale, fans were left biting their fingernails at the end of Season 18 Episode 15 on April 7.
“It was a big shock when I read that first script and it’s going to be a wild ride,” Borelli tells LA Confidential about the possibility of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital’s residency program being shut down. “We’ve been with this residency program for 18 years now, so it's going to be interesting to see how people band together to try to keep it going.”
Questions still persist as to whether Levi Schmitt will be one of those characters who hops onto the “wild ride” when the series returns on May 5 for the season’s final batch of episodes. From dolefully losing a patient and refusing to return to the hospital to rushing his mother to Grey Sloan in hopes to save her life, Schmitt seems to be wilting by the minute.
“This is a huge moment for Schmitt and I just hope that this awful trauma that brought him back to the hospital could possibly show him that he needs to be a doctor,” Borelli expresses. “He is so good at his job, even though we see him make some of these mistakes. He’s really, really good.”
It is without a doubt that the levity that Borelli’s character brings to the show is a diamond in the rough within the insanity of the hospital. “For a long time, he was the comic relief and he was able to play in these often dark situations with a little bit of hope and a little bit of comedy,” Borelli shares.
Not only does Schmitt hand his audience the optimism they need when searcing for a light at the end of the tunnel, but he connects closely to a newfound queer audience that has emerged within the Grey’s family since his arrival. When Schmitt and fellow doctor Nico Kim’s (Alex Landi) relationship was confirmed in Season 15 Episode 6, Borelli came out publicly as well on his Instagram.
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“As the audience was seeing this relationship possibly flourish, possibly not, I kept getting all of these incredible messages from fans all around the world, especially from young queer people, saying how if this was a storyline that was coming, they were so excited,” Borelli exclaims.
Borelli has mirrored Schmitt in other aspects too, like when his career set sail and he embarked on a journey back to the home of the rich and famous to become… an intern.
Borelli had recently moved to New York after living in Los Angeles for about eight years. He wanted to get back into the swing of acting for theater and jump on the opportunity to work with some admirable acting coaches. After six weeks of this major move, he was back to L.A. to play the role of an intern when he booked the part of Schmitt through an audition tape.
“I had looked up to a lot of these actors for so long and then I got to work with them, which was incredible,” Borelli says as he reflects back on this skin-pinching experience. “It mirrored what my character was going through, too, because I was this new intern. Levi was excited to be working at the hospital, just as I was excited to be working on this massive TV show.”
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With 18 seasons filled with nothing but intense storylines, there’s never a dull moment at Grey Sloan Memorial. Interestingly enough, Borelli mentions that some of his favorite scenes to film are when they get to spend time in the basement. “It almost feels like a slightly different show because we’re not at the hospital anymore, and we get to see a little bit more into Levi’s life,” he adds.
It is undeniable that fans love to dig deeper into Schmitt’s life, too, but some of the most remarkable scenes from Grey’s Anatomy were when they incorporated real-life experiences into their storylines, like the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast got the chance to pick the brains of real doctors and nurses who were swept up into the pandemic to tell their stories. “I just hope that we did justice for them,” Borelli comments.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Borelli longed to be an actor since before he could even put words together. He tells a story about his sheer and utter love for being on screen that his mom likes to tell. “I used to sit and watch Barney and other shows for hours and hours and hours. Apparently, before I could even speak that well I would point at the TV when I was watching Barney and tell my mom that I wanted to go there. She thought I wanted to go watch Barney, but I wanted to go into the TV and be on Barney.”
The second Borelli was old enough to start getting involved in professional shows, his mom took him to audition at Columbus Children’s Theater.
“It became my new tribe,” Borelli says. “I finally found people who were like me, who wanted to act, who wanted to play pretend and who wanted to do all these plays. Columbus Children’s Theater was such a training ground and taught us so much.”
Later on, Borelli came to the realization that his passion could be a profession. Right after he graduated high school, it was straight to L.A. to pursue the job of a lifetime.
Borelli notes one major detail that wasn’t oh-so-glamourous: “I was terrified to be out publicly in the business because I had grown up seeing all these stories of queer people coming out or being forced out of the closet and their careers sort of not going anywhere after that. I was really worried about that.”
Luckily for Borelli, he landed the role of Sam in The Thing About Harry, which helped his confidence skyrocket. In the rom-com, the storyline was not about humiliation or coming out of the closet, but an honest love story between two men. Borelli played a deeply dynamic character that showed him he could indeed be a working actor and be queer simultaneously. Although Borelli sees a lot of himself in Sam in his personal life, he and Schmitt will always have a special connection.
Borelli reflects on how he intends to inspire the Grey’s audience: “I hope that people just feel seen, especially because he’s queer. To have a queer character like this for so long on a TV show is massive when it comes to visibility and representation. I know that it's helped me a lot, just as a fan of the show, to know that they’re investing so much into a queer character like this. I hope that other people see that too and other people feel represented by it.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC at 9/8 p.m. C and is streaming on Hulu.
Photography by: Maxwell Poth