Grey’s Anatomy has always pushed boundaries, but on Thursday night’s episode, it finally introduced a storyline fans have been waiting 15 years for — a gay male romance between two doctors.
In “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) and Nico Kim (Alex Landi) shared a hallway kiss after several weeks of flirtation and missed connections. The moment prompted Schmitt to admit it was the first time he’d ever kissed a man before and to give a metaphorical coming out speech about how his switch to orthopedic surgery marked the first time he felt like he belonged in the hospital.
But the speech and the moment prompted something equally as moving in real life — Borelli, who has been bringing Schmitt to life on the small-screen since last fall, came out alongside his character. The actor, 27, opened up about his sexuality in an Instagram post, writing, “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.”
He added, “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…”
Speaking to EW, creator Krista Vernoff explained that the idea for the storyline came from wanting to find a new, exciting storyline for Borelli. “Jake is an incredible actor and the more we wrote for him, the more we wanted to write for him,” she said. “So, the story didn’t begin with, ‘Hey, we’ve never done a gay male love story.’ It began with, ‘What are we going to do with Jake this year that’s different?'”
Basing Levi’s coming out journey on that of one of her college friends, Vernoff hit the ground running on this story and set-out to cast a love interest for “Glasses.”
Borelli is the second prominent Grey’s Anatomy actor to come out publicly while appearing on the long-time running hit. A decade ago, T.R. Knight, who portrayed erstwhile intern George, came out in the wake of a media frenzy surrounding co-star Isaiah Washington’s use of a gay slur on set.
In Borelli’s case though, the announcement was made on his own social media pages, marking his decision to open up about his sexuality to fans and Grey’s Anatomy audiences entirely on his own terms.