Jake Borelli talks ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ coming out and role in queer rom-com ‘The Thing About Harry’

PHOTO: Persona PR

For Jake Borelli, landing a role on “Grey’s Anatomy” wasn’t something he ever pictured happening in his career.

Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, the 29-year-old actor got his start at the Columbus Children’s Theatre. From ages 10 to 13 years old, Borelli says he participated in 17 plays and loved every second of it.

“I ended up getting introduced to local agents there, who started me with radio and commercial work,” said Borelli. “That’s when I thought, ‘I could turn this into a career.’ I got on a plane to L.A. right after graduating high school.”

Borelli started taking classes out in Los Angeles and began to audition. He landed a few small roles on some primetime television shows like “NCIS,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Suburgatory,” and landed a recurring role on the Nickelodeon series “The Thundermans.” After eight years of auditions, Borelli ultimately decided to uproot his life and start over in New York.

While he was laying down roots in New York, Borelli’s agent sent him a tape audition for “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“‘Grey’s’ felt so out of reach for me at the time,” said Borelli. “I didn’t believe it was something I could do. I sort of forgot about it after I sent my tape in.”

However, two weeks after submitting the audition, Borelli got word that he had landed a role on the beloved medical drama. After six weeks living in New York, Borelli was back on a plane headed back to Los Angeles to join the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Borelli plays Dr. Levi Schmitt aka ‘Glasses,’ who joined the cast of characters as an intern in season 15. Borelli says playing Dr. Schmitt the first year was an absolute whirlwind for him, and ended up mirroring a lot of his real life as well.

“I felt like I was literally in a dream for the entire first year,” said Borelli. “Now here I am, this young actor who really wants to learn, getting to learn from these icons. To act along with Ellen Pompeo was nuts. It was also the idea of playing an intern, you have no idea how long you are going to be there. It mirrored the life of our characters; I’m there as Levi, who is starting to work at a hospital with OG surgeons, while I, as a young actor, am working with OG actors.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” started its 17th season this year. Borelli says that playing Dr. Schmitt has changed him drastically, and even gave him the courage to come out as gay in his personal life.

“Him coming out of the closet on the show helped me come out of the closet,” said Borelli. “Having him navigating his new identity for three seasons has helped me step more confidently in the queer community. The show has given me a lot of confidence and opportunities to speak with queer people around the world.”

Borelli recently starred in “The Thing About Harry,” Freeform’s first gay rom-com. Borelli plays Sam, a young gay man starting his political career in Chicago. The film follows Sam as he and his old high-school bully Harry (played by Niko Terho) are forced to share a car ride to their Missouri hometown for a friend’s engagement party on Valentine’s Day. After learning that Harry has also come out of the closet as pansexual, things take a turn, and the two men begin to develop a deep friendship – with neither of them admitting a potential romance may be brewing – leaving them wondering if one road trip could change the rest of their lives.

The film was directed by Peter Paige and premiered on Freeform on Feb. 15, 2020. Borelli says that “The Thing About Harry” got an amazing reception from viewers — the film currently has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes and an 88% audience score. Borelli says that he still gets messages from queer fans who he says are just as obsessed with the film as he is.

For Borelli, what sets “The Thing About Harry” apart from other films with queer topics is that it doesn’t focus on the process of coming out — it follows similar themes that you find in other rom-com films with straight characters, making it an important watch.

“What’s so new and fresh is that it’s trying to reinvent the wheel. It’s a classic rom-com but it’s queer, and that’s not something we’ve seen before,” said Borelli. “There are young adult queer films out there, but this is special because it doesn’t talk about coming out and doesn’t sit in the shame of being queer. It’s an adorable love story about two queer guys finding love. It was refreshing for me to read, and was the main reason why I signed on. It would have changed everything for me if I saw it when I was young — it validates love stories as queers.”

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