If you aren’t stanning Schmico on Grey’s Anatomy (aka the portmanteau for Dr. Levi Schmidt and Dr. Nico Kim, played by Jake Borelli and Alex Landi, respectively), then you have the next few months to catch up on the medical drama and, guaranteed, you’ll be squealing over the hottest couple on the show in no time.
I had the chance to chat over the phone recently with Jake Borelli (who is now my imaginary BFF, after I learned that he’s a theatre nerd like me), and we talked about the fate of Schmico, being a part of Shondaland, and the positive fan reaction to his coming out publicly.
The following is a condensed and edited version of our phone conversation.
*This interview was originally published on November 25, 2018*
Brief Take: Please tell me Schmico are going to be OK! Last we saw, that power line was coming dangerously close to the ambulance they were in. I need to know they’re going to be alright.
Jake Borelli: [laughs] I hope so! I hope Schmico’s OK but it looked quite dramatic and I know the wind storm is still going. So I’m excited for January to see exactly how bad this wind storm gets because everyone seems to be in danger right now.
BT: January is a long time for fans to have to wait to find out if you’re going to be OK!
JB: I know! I’ll have no fingernails by January.
BT: You must be getting a lot of love from Grey’s fans.
JB: It’s been overwhelming, frankly, in the most beautiful way possible. Now that I’m in New York, I’ve gotten the ability to meet a lot of these fans and there’s been a lot of personal reactions from people that have come up to me and told me how they were feeling and how the storyline has affected them and how they’ve been fans of the show for 15 years and they finally feel represented. I think that is so beautiful, you know? In the beginning I didn’t know what this new relationship with the fans was going to be like, and I am so excited that moving forward it has become something that has really sparked a dialogue and given me the opportunity to hear and listen to all these stories that are so similar to mine and so rich and beautiful in and of themselves.
BT: On top of that, you have viewers writing Schmico fan fiction, you have someone deeply devoted to getting you on The Ellen Degeneres Show, message boards devoted to you, and the list goes on. Fans love you two!
JB: [laughs] It’s been insane. One of my favourite things out of all of this is the fan art that has been coming out. People draw Schmico and draw Levi and Nico. I absolutely love it! I save every single one that is on Instagram. If you look at my save folder, it’s just a bunch of drawings of Schmico, because I think they’re so cool. Art and visual art is something that I am such a cheerleader for. So I think that’s been really cool.
BT: Tell me about working on the Fall Finale that made everyone cry (in the best way possible), and with having Kevin McKidd as your director.
JB: Oh Kevin was fantastic. He’s such a great director! He’s directed a bunch of episodes and it’s really great to have someone who really understands the whole arc of the show and who’s been there in the trenches with us directing and at the head of it. So I was so excited when I found out that he’s going to be directing our episode. A lot of times there’s not a ton of time for rehearsal before we have to shoot, and I think Kevin knew how important this scene was to me and how important the scene would be to a lot of the fans out there. So we did have the ability to get in the ambulance the day before and it was just him and I and Alex Landi, and we just hashed it all out there, which was really nice. We talked about the entire trajectory of our characters’ arcs in that episode, which was really beautiful, and I’m so glad that he did that. Filming that episode was amazing and a real dream come true! I was finally getting to unleash what was in my body for ten or 15 years. When I read that monologue for the first time, it was instantly in my body. I was tingling and I felt fully supported and it was such a wonderful opportunity to get to do that on television and on such a large scale. I’m going to be very grateful for a very long time. [laughs]
BT: It was tremendous work. As an actor, you must feel so proud.
JB: Thank you so much. It was a personal and a professional milestone for me and I can’t wait for more, honestly. It’s been really wonderful.
BT: Being part of the Shondaland family must feel so empowering too.
JB: Shondaland is such an iconic production company and it’s a company and a group of people that I’ve always looked up to. When I was younger and I knew that I wanted to be in television, I was like “let’s shoot for the stars!”. [laughs] Shondaland and Grey’s Anatomy is about as high as you can get right now. Looking back, I honestly didn’t think it would be possible. When you say you’ll shoot for the stars, you know that you’ll land somewhere beneath it. And now here I am, on this show, in one of the most important storylines that I’ve ever done and that I’ve ever seen. I mean pinch me now because I don’t even know what’s going on! [laughs] I’m taking it one day at a time because there’s so much good about this right now.
BT: What have you liked best about working with Alex Landi?
JB: He’s such a goofball. [laughs] I really love how open and willing he is to try new things, and I feel really safe around him, which is a great quality to have in a scene partner, especially when we’re doing such vulnerable things. One, we’re telling a story, and two, we’re making out shirtless in an ambulance, and that is awkward in and of itself. [laughs] But it never felt awkward with him, which I think is fantastic.
BT: Your storyline is one of self discovery. What have you learned about yourself on this journey?
JB: Over the past couple of weeks I’ve also sort of landed a little deeper into my own confidence and into my own body. I have continued to grow in my relationship with myself, which I think is fantastic, and I think is something that Levi is doing right now. In a way we’re sort of mirroring each other, which is wonderful. I’ve really learned about the power of honesty and authenticity. If you spread those out into the world, you receive it back tenfold. And I’m not even just talking about being honest about your sexuality or whether you’re gay or not, in fact I’m not talking about that at all, I’m talking about being honest about anything and your truth. I think it’s been really exciting. I think right now, in this time, if we can lean into anything it’s vulnerability and honesty because sometimes those are the hardest things to give. If you have the ability to do it and if you have the safe place to do it in and if you’re surrounded by people who can understand the weight of that and really listen and be there, honesty is one of the best things you can give.
BT: Who are some people that you look up to in your life?
JB: Honestly, my friends are people that I look up to. These are people that I’ve sort of come up in this business with out in L.A., these are the people that I look to. It’s been a whirlwind the past couple of months, and especially the past couple of weeks, I cherish the time that I get to spend with my friends. I talk to Jeanine Mason all the time, she was one of the other interns on Grey’s Anatomy, and she has been a mentor of mine for the last five years – in acting class, and just in life. Her advice is kind of second to none for me. So people like her and my best friend Lara, the first girl that I ever came out to when I was 17, and she has been my best friend ever since. She is the one that helped me write my coming out Instagram post and edited it. [laughs] These people that have been with me since the beginning are the people that I still look to as mentors. I know it’s kind of weird because we’re the same age, but we’ve been doing it together for so long and we’re going to continue to do it from here. I think that’s very important.
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As a gay guy myself, tonight's episode was so special to me. 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. His vulnerability and courage inspire me every day, and I hope he can do the same for you. To all of you who feel like little Levis out there, know that I do too, that you are seen, and that we're all in this together. And to everyone who has supported me over the years, I can't thank you enough, and I love you more than all the stars…
BT: We don’t get too many big Broadway shows here, so I need to live vicariously through you for a moment. How was Waitress?
JB: [laughs] Oh my gosh, Waitress was absolutely fantastic! It was my second time seeing it and I absolutely love it. One of my really good friends, Alex Wyse, was playing Ogie and oh! he just warms my heart with everything he does and I stood up and clapped and cheered the whole way through. He’s hilarious. It was also Al Roker’s last show, so that was really exciting to see. I mean I’m just obsessed with Sara Bareilles, so I could watch her a hundred times. [laughs]
BT: So you’ll be seeing it again, is what you’re saying?
JB: Oh I will be seeing it many, many more times! [laughs]
BT: Are you going to see any more Broadway or off Broadway shows while you’re there?
JB: I hope so! I’m here for the next couple of days so hopefully I’ll see one tomorrow. But I was here a few months ago and I saw nine plays in like three weeks so maybe I need to spend a little less money on theatre for the next couple of months. [laughs]
BT: I mean while you’re there, you have to see more shows!
JB: [laughs] I like this peer pressure.
BT: Tell me about the short film that you did with many members of the Grey’s family, called A Cohort of Guests.
JB: Ohhhh!! A Cohort of Guests is a short that we got a bunch of Shondaland people on, a couple of people from Station 19 too and a lot of Grey’s Anatomy alumni. It should be coming out this fall or early winter and I’m really excited about it. I don’t want to say too much about my involvement in it because it’s a little bit of a surprise. I play a very different character than Glasses, and it was super cool to look at what acting with these people that I’ve been acting with for the past year and a half, what it would look to all be playing very different roles and in a very different situation. It was super fun and I can’t wait to watch it!
Grey’s Anatomy season 15 will return in 2019 on CTV and ABC