'Grey's Anatomy's Jake Borelli on Schmitt's Crisis & His Future With Nico
The lovable doctor is currently on the outs with his work friends following his inadvertent role in getting Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) temporarily ousted from Grey Sloan Memorial. However, folks might just have to put their feelings aside to deal with the crisis at hand in tonight’s two-hour crossover!
TV Insider chatted up Borelli at ABC's party during the TCA winter press tour to get his thoughts on Levi’s future, his romance with Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi), how he put the nickname “Glasses” in the past, and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. Read on to get the scoop!
This is your first season as a series regular. Congratulations!
Jake Borelli: Thank you!
What’s the biggest difference?
This affords my character more screen-time so his backstory can be delved into more. We get to see a lot about Levi’s past, his family, and where he’s coming from. That’s the biggest thing that comes with being a series regular.
How long did it take for him to live down the nickname "Glasses," which he was given after his specs fell into a patient? Oops!
It changed after he got his sea legs and started becoming a better surgeon. What also helped was when Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) came back. She was the only doctor who didn’t know who Levi was or how he got [the nickname] "Glasses." She saw him being a surgeon and she was the first person to call him Dr. Schmitt. Her treating him as a surgeon gave him massive amounts of confidence.
What were your thoughts when the show brought on Alex Landi to play opposite you?
Alex is so nice. He’s tall, gorgeous.. he’s a model! We get along really well. They’d been doing a search for him and when he came in on his first day, I remember turning to [executive producer] Krista Vernoff and I said, "This is going to work." We get along wonderfully. He’s open to trying new things.
At first, Nico didn’t want to pursue anything with Levi because he felt Levi didn’t have enough experience. How did they both get past that?
I think it was when Levi had the courage to open his heart to Nico and he told him where he was coming from. Levi said [his not being more out] wasn’t based in shame – he just simply didn’t have much experience and didn’t know himself, being in a world that is so aligned with the straight community. Levi hadn’t had the opportunity to be who he is. It was that courage, I think, that helped Nico fall in love with [Levi].
Do you feel you’re a spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community?
I think there are so few queer characters on TV and even fewer out, queer actors who are playing those characters so, yes, I am a spokesperson. I would have killed to have had someone [when I was starting out] in the same position [that I’m in now] to whom I could have looked up to and hear what they had to say about where they are and how they got there. I don’t take [my role] lightly. I’m still human and I don’t think I’m saying anything differently than the people I’ve looked up to as mentors have said. I think it’s really important that ABC, Disney, and Krista Vernoff have given me a platform.
Can you set up where Levi was in the midseason finale?
Levi’s fellow interns [and friends] hate him right now because he was the reason Meredith went on trial for insurance fraud. He’s feeling very isolated from everyone. They’re all at a bar and a car has just come through the wall. Everyone’s in danger including a bunch of series regulars from Grey’s and Station 19. It’s a two-hour Shondaland movie!
Without giving too much away, I imagine people will have to put personal feelings aside in order to deal with the crisis at hand. Levi could emerge from this on better terms with his colleagues?
I hope so. The car crash could be a good thing for him [ultimately], but right now, we’re in the middle of it and it does not feel good!
What do Levi and Nico bring to each other that makes their relationship a good one?
Levi’s strengths are that he’s so open and vulnerable. He’s teaching Nico how to be vulnerable, too. Nico’s a wonderful way for Levi to [more fully] enter the queer community and Levi is showing him the ropes.
Most everyone wants to see themselves represented on television. There was a time when same-sex romances in prime time on broadcast TV were a no-no.
[Levi and Nico] are groundbreaking. Grey’s has already been groundbreaking with Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw). That relationship was so wonderful. Now, it’s wonderful to go on this ride with these queer guys. I don’t know where they’re going to go [next], but it’s Shondaland! They mix things up all the time. We’ll see. This show can’t go wrong.
Station 19, Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC
Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC