Gay's Anatomy With Jake Borelli

Episode · 2 years ago

Gay's Anatomy With Jake Borelli


Life imitates art imitates life. Jake Borelli had been out to friends and family for nearly a decade before deciding to come out publicly-- the same night his character on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Levi Schmitt did. Be sure to follow Jake on IG! Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Sebastian Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

Straw hut media. Grays Anatomy and its Creator, Shanda himes, have been famously progressive and queer friendly since the very beginning. Since then, the show has addressed issues of sexism, racism, undocumented citizens, access to healthcare, bisexuality, trans relationships, marriage quality, black lives matter and even don't ask, don't tell. Just to name a few. Two characters, Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins, both wore white wedding dresses when they got married during season seven. In Two thousand and ten, Dr Nico Kim, played by Alex Landy, was the series first openly gay male surgeon. The best part about grays anatomy first is that now that we're in season fifteen, we need more and more qualifiers. One thing Grayson, out of me, had never done was a gay sex scene between two men, until, of course, the season fifteen finale, when our guest today, Jake Barelli, had his super steamy sex scene with Dr Nico Kim. Finally, by Chambers, and this is pride. I'm Jake Barelli, I'm an actor on gray's anatomy. I played Dr Leevi Schmitt. Gray's anatomy is now in its sixteen season, making it the longest running prime time medical drama in history, with three hundred and fifty six episodes and counting. That's almost one episode for every day of the year. Jake Barelli, after being cast in his role as Dr Leevi Schmidt in two thousand and seventeen, had a lot of catching up to do. I remember when I managed it in a year. I tweeted about it because I was so proud of myself. You know, took me three hundred sixty five days to watch all the episodes and I had these like teenagers being like that's nothing. I watched the whole thing in two months. Before Jake spent those hundreds of hours watching the show that would change his life, he had sold everything he owned and left La for New York. A couple of months later he sent in a self tape for a role on gray's anatomy with no expectations. The show was so famous that it seemed out of reach, so he sent it in and promptly forgot about it. Two weeks later he got a call from his agent at thirty PM. They wanted to see him on set in La the next day at ten am. So he caught a red eye, made it to set in time and began his role as the medical intern Levi Schmidt. Originally, the role was supposed to be for one or two episodes. Jake's character started as comedic relief. He was a Klutz who accidentally drops his glasses inside a patient during an operation, earning him the nickname glassts, but the writers and the fans of the show loved him so much that ended up coming back again and again, until finally becoming a series regular. He's now in his third season on gray's anatomy and his character, Dr Leewi Schmidt came out the same night he did. Well, not exactly. Jake was out to his family and friends, but he wasn't out professionally. In the last like six years I was in the in the mindset of if someone asks me, yes, for sure I'm gay, I'm not, and I've never lied about it. Even even when I was in the closet, I just didn't talk about it. It's something we hear a lot from Queer actors. There's a fear that letting agents, directors and even fans know they're gay will end up limiting their opportunities or, worse, cost them their career, and that was on his mind when he first came out to himself in the eighth grade. Even at that young age I knew that I wanted to be an actor, but there was a lot of, you know, sort of things that I was learning through society and through entertainment that caused me,... that young age, to think you couldn't be an actor and be out and proud as a kid. Jake says his favorite movie was finding Nemo and as a result he heard the public coming out story of Ellen Degeneres, but only in bits and pieces, and the only thing that my little mind sort of stuck on was that she had a network television show and when she came out it got taken away from her. And I think little things like that sort of the my younger version took to heart and I decided in eighth grade that I wasn't going to come out to anybody. Finally, at the end of high school, Jake came out to his best friend, Laura, the same friend who helped him craft his coming out post on instagram a decade later, but we'll get to that in a minute. After high school he packed up and moved to La to pursue a career in acting and pretty much after two months of being here I had a little bit of a panic attack and flew back to Ohio immediately and told my parents and came out to my family and and at that point, you know, eighteen nineteen is when I started coming out to all my friends. I think I knew that my family would be completely okay with it. My parents, you know, they they're super accepting of people of all different types. My aunt is a lesbian, so I was you know, I knew about Queer people when I was young and I didn't think that they were going to have any personal issues with it. The issue came when I, you know, was dreaming of something a little bit bigger than what I had then and never truly believed that it was possible because I was queer, and that was sort of my main the main issue that I ran into about whether I should come out or not. Throughout his earlier days on gray's anatomy, Jake had absolutely no idea that Dr Leewischmidt would eventually come out as scay. After all, his character had slept with a woman on the show. Then the show runner, Christophernoff, approached Jake with a new storyline and basically pitched this idea that my character would come out of the closet, that this was a story she wanted to tell and that she really wanted to tell it through my character and through me as an actor, and she just wanted to run it by me before she started writing it. I said, this is kind of my thought process here. I've been afraid of being publicly out in this industry for the last fifteen years of my life and I could not play this role and be in the closet. I just couldn't do it. Jake says that he knew that his new character arc would make his work on gray's anatomy mean a lot more to himself and to his fans, but he just wasn't sure if he was ready to merge his personal and professional lives in that way. And so she said, you know, take the week, let me know what you think. And I called my parents immediately right after hung up the phone and we talked about it and my dad said something amazing. You know, after talking a little bit about his own life, he said sometimes when you speak truth to something that scares you, it all of a sudden is no longer as scary as he thought it was, and I knew immediately that I had to do it and I called my boss back literally like thirty five minutes later. She's like, I said take the week. I was like, I don't care, I'm let's do it. Let's do this thing together, let's let's go for it. Once they decided they were definitely going to tell that story, they next had to figure out what kind of story they were going to tell. You know, back when I was a kid, when I was afraid about coming out and when I saw countless stories about Queer people in the media that were sort of wrapped around shame and the fear of coming out and being disowned and going through trauma, it was those things, despite having a family that I knew would support me, it was those things that terrified me. And so I said,...

...if we're going to do this, I want to see finally a story about coming out that is surrounded by pride, that doesn't lean into shame, that could be a story about empowering a person as opposed to, you know, just like tearing them down, and so the writers on the show crafted a story in which Dr Leevi Schmidt really comes into his own as a result of coming out. Christophernoff said she was partially inspired by a friend she knew in college who was clumsy and awkward until he came out. Once he came out, he found his confidence. So she wanted to write some version of that story for Dr Leevi Schmidt and they even invited Jake into the writer's room so he could add his own perspective. I got to talk with them a bunch about, you know, if I wanted my own experiences, which I did, and also things that I hoped you know, she a lot of time she'll ask us like what are yours and dreams for your character? What do you what do you want to see them do? And we really, you know, talked back and forth about stories that I hadn't seen about Queer people, stories that I would want to see, stories that I wouldn't want to see, and it was you know, she's really been great about hearing us out and then using some of that and some of her own life experience to to build these amazing story lines that are, you know, rooted in and in truth, two months passed between the initial pitch from the show runner and the airing of the episode and during that Time Jake was anxiously awaiting the moment when he and Dr Leevi Schmidt would make their move those nuts, because I knew I was gonna do it then because I wanted to talk about it even sooner because I you know, the first like five episodes where it was sort of teasing, will they, won't they, in terms of are are they attracted to each other, or is this just this weird like flirting as leave getting it wrong? What's going on? And so we didn't really even know if Levi was gay at that point or if he was just confused or what was going on. So I couldn't really talk about it, but I was getting all of these, you know, just like a flood of support from Queer people and not queer people all around the world just saying like how excited they were that this could be a possibility, and I just from the comments I was so excited and so warmed by even just like a little bit of the reception I was getting. So in November two thousand and eighteen, during the fifteen season of Grayson, out of me, as his character came out on screen, Jake came out publicly with an instagram post. The responses flooded in. It was nuts and I remember the next day I sat down on sort of light on my friend's yard basically, and I read them all. It took like six hours, but I read every single one of those comments and one of the comments was from this like thirteen year old kid basically thanking me for this storyline, but not for themselves because they thought it was already kind of too late, that they already had come out to themselves, they had come out to people, but they were thanking the generation. They were being thankful for the generation that's coming after them, and I'm like this is a thirteen year old kid who already has the mindset that they're paying it forward to to the kids who are coming after them. And they said if if I had known that there was someone out there like me when I was younger, it would have helped me so much, and this was such a young person and I'm like it was massive to me because it really sort of solidified this desire in me to to do this for the next general ration.

It's not for us, it's for them. The show was filming the night that episode aired, so he sat in his trailer on set and worked out what he was going to say and I sitting there alone and I had written the message out that I wanted everybody to hear and I sent it to my best friend Laura from high school. She helped me edit a little bit and it was just sort of one of those like now ur never moments and I just clicked send and, yeah, it literally like blew up. I was like talking to my friends that night and it likes started just like comment started flooding in and I think it got picked up by like everyone. Yeah, I like sixty different like business publications and I was just like, Oh God, what's going on? What's going on, and I was like immediately terrified and also super excited at the same time. And it just it never stopped. And people, I think people are just as affected by the storyline as I was and it's you know, he's a he's a beautiful character. I found a quote from Jake where he said what's important to remember is that a person coming out is not something you do just once. Coming out is a constant relationship you have with yourself and with the people in your life. Oh, yeah, I say, not a lot perfect, like they say it all the time. That's why, just because I believe it. So I talked about it too. You know, a lot times when I'm coming out to people that aren't queer, they just don't understand and so I have to, I feel like, tell them that. And even in my own life, you know, the my biggest coming out was coming out to myself in eighth grade and, like I told you, I sat with that for years and and then it's it's funny like like when you ask what was your coming out story, I feel like I have thirty of them that I could tell you that we're all very meaningful sort of chapters in my coming out process and it's not just like a one thing. You know, there I'm going to come out a hundred times this year two different people, and I just think it's important to remember it. I also feel like it takes a little bit of the pressure off of every individual coming out to do you still feel like you are constantly coming out now that when you are famous, especially in the gray's anatomy fandom right like, do you still feel like you have to come out? That you did it publicly, you're out to your family, out to your friends, because it's still something that you're constantly doing. I yeah, I think if you're a fan of the show, you probably know that I'm gay, but honestly, a lot of people still are surprised. They're like your you play a gay person, but we didn't necessarily assume you were gay. So that happens. And I also I you know, I just I feel like I meet a lot of people out there that don't know who I am too, and I think you're always going to have to come out and it's, you know, another part of that. The coming out process is like each individual interaction, I feel, takes a different amount of effort. I feel like in terms of coming out, like some people, I will literally say hi, I'm Jake, I'm gay, and other times I'll say like hey, that guy's hot, isn't he? And then that's another way of coming out, you know, and in then n like, I feel like each into individual interaction takes, you know, a little bit more. You to put a little bit more stock in it. When we come back, sex in an ambulance and Jake's new romcom. Welcome back. Today we're talking to Jake Barelli, who plays Dr Leevi Schmidt on Grey's anatomy. Before the break, Jake took us through his characters coming out story and how it paralleled his own. That on screen revelation led to another first for gray's anatomy, the first gay sex scene between two men. And they did not...

...hold back. I tell you, I I'll get pulled, you know, on the street. I'll get like stopped a lot and more often than not it's people wanting to talk about the ambulance scene is what they call it because yes, I leave I lost his virginity in an ambulance in the middle of a windstorm and it was, you know, just like the perfect schandaland drama. You know, the episode was directed by one of the series regulars, Kevin mckidd, who plays Dr Owen Hunt, and in the sex scene took place in an ambulance, not a real one, but a TV ambulance. It's called a buck. It's like just the it's the opposite of the shell of an ambulance. It's like just the inside. The day before shooting they went through and rehearse the scene just jake, Kevin mckidd and Adam Landy, who places on screen boyfriend Niko. It was so crazy because I've done. You know, I've had like makeout scenes with girls and I've had like, you know, filling around scenes with them, and I don't really know how to touch a girl, do you know what I mean? Like I'm all I usually asked the girl like what, what? What will look natural? Or I lean on the director, where in this moment I was just like you guys, this is what it's got to be. He sits down, I get on top, this is what's gonna go, and it was just like it felt so freeing to finally get to play a queer person. It like it. You're like, I got this. Yeah, not that it was like easy, but it was so much easier, you know what I mean? It was great and we had a blast. You kissed me and I felt the opposite of shame for the first time. It felt like I was holding the Sun Sword and I'd up. So it's a fun seem to shoot. Oh Yeah, and also, you know, it's like the windstorm, right, so you have for just like strapping grips on either corner of this buck, just like wiggling it to make it look like it's all game in the with. Yeah, I was like all these poor guys, I'd like I remember thanking them as look. Sorry, guys, but I thank you for making this look like natural. So did you? How long did it take to Oh, a few hours, I mean it was we were in the middle of our so we have these two massive stages that are all hospital and in the middle is what we called the called the breeze way, which is where all the ambulances come in and drop off patients and it's technically outside, and so they had all these massive fans out in the breeze way and just like blowing wind and debris everywhere, and we were there all day long shooting like a you know, I save Nico's life. I'm like crawling like a you know, like a superhero kind of and so that took all day. But yeah, the the sex scene was it was fun. Could you relate to leave in the moment when you're just like I have to have this person right now in the windstorm, I don't care if trees are blowing in like this is the moment? Oh for sure. Yeah, I mean you I've been overcome by feelings once or twice in my life, for sure. Okay, so was your first time then? As exciting as a windstorm in IT O. my first time? No, absolutely not. My first time was so awkward and like literally no one teaches gay people how to do gay things, and so you're like none of neither of us, knew what was going on or how to do anything. It just didn't work. So we were like let's let's watch a movie. So we like cooked pizza and watch a movie. We ended up choosing the normal heart, which is like the worst movie to play. You know, after you're like look up with someone. So it was not a great experien it wasn't the ambulance experience by any means. All Right, great movie, though, but I don't know, Matt Bomer always makes me cray the worst the shower. Senior, I can do it. Not a good not a good like romantic movie. No, yeah, I really killed the mood. But how old are you? Godn't know. You even want to say the normal heart? I was twenty two, all right, all right, yeah, late bloomer, just like Leavi. Yeah, now that Jake is publicly out, he says the thought of being cast in queer roles doesn't scare him anymore. In fact it's.

It's made me ten times more excited about playing queer and coming out publicly. It's given me the ability to be myself wholeheartedly at work and not at work, and I don't feel like I need to hide at all anymore and I'm I had better relationships with people at work because of it, because I'm truly myself and I don't I'm not looking over my shoulder all the time to see if you know, I'm gonna be found out. It's honestly, I got to a point in my life where where the fear that you know, x, Y and Z might happen with my career if I came out, it didn't outweigh my like freedom anymore. I really just needed to come out for myself also, and I'm like three hundred times happier after. So, you know, I did. I went to a talk back at the LGBT center. I and Lauren Morelli, who is the showrunner of you know, she show ran orange the new black and she does tales of the city now. She got asked this question too, about would you do you? Do you ever feel now that you're pigeon holed in telling queer stories? And she had the best respond ever where she said so what if I am honestly, I would love to tell queer stories for the rest of my life. There are a million queer stories to tell and I feel like I've adopted what she said because I I would love to play more and more queer characters, in different types of queer characters along with straight people. That wish was granted when he was cast in the brand new free form movie. The thing about Harry, which premier just last weekend, the day after Valentine's Day. The quick pitch is it's when Harry met Sally. For a queer generation, when the offer came in for the movie, I was like wait, what Ike you know, because I was still in the mindset of like, oh my gosh, this might leave I Schmidt, might be my role, this might be it, I might never work again. And then I get offered this movie and I buy pure page and then I start reading the movie and it's like the exact movie that I would have wanted to see when I was younger. And it is not about shame. It's about also about pride and it's about love and it's about growing up as a queer person. You know, a queer young professional in Chicago and it's about trying to find love, trying to hold on to love once you find it, and it is right in that pocket of all these other Rom coms that we see. It's it's light, it's funny, you're going to cry, but you're gonna you're going to feel really heart warmed by it too, and the fact that it's backed by Disney, I think is massive. I the fact that it's going to be coming out on free form to a younger demographic, to people that I think are craving these types of stories and to people who these types of stories will affect immensely, I think is so important. The thing about Harry is written and directed by Peter Page, who created the free form shows the fosters and good trouble, and also start in the early aughts showtime series Queer as folk. Jake says, Peter Page is an inspiration to work with. He is a gay man who has been out for a long time and he is killing it. He is out there making content, and it's not even just queer content. He's making quite content across the board and he really has a voice in the room. You know, seeing him from afar, it gave me hope that that was something, but it's still felt elusive. And getting to work with him, you know, for a month, two months we shot in Chicago, so we we were, you know, sort of out at like winter camp, I like to call it, because it was freezing, but I got to see him work every day and I got to see the effect that...

...he had on telling the story and, you know, you got to see a queer story being told by Queer people and there was something so authentic about that and it almost felt like we couldn't do anything wrong, we couldn't say anything wrong because we were queer, so anything we said was queer and like the it just felt magical and it gave me hope that that was something that I could do, that I could follow in his footsteps or do something similar to what he's doing and have that effect on a much larger group of people. In contrast to queer as folk, the thing about Harry is accessible to a much younger audience. Queers folk was a great show, but it was still showtime, meaning lots of sex, nudity, swearing, you name it. Now that Peter Page is creating for Disney, the content has to be a bit more subdued as a result. The thing about Harry can function as a true mainstream rom calm. You know, Queer people had sort of been pushed to like the best friend roll always in Rom coms, or like the guy that helps her shop for a wedding dress or, you know, someone who like maybe has sex, but we don't really know, maybe he doesn't. You know, it's like it's always the side roll in Rom coms and this movie is a classic Rom Com through and through and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. And the fact that the queer people are not the side characters, that they're the main characters, I think is massive and it's not something that we've seen before. So we talked about how, like all the young people react to like, oh my gosh, it's so great coming out sex in the ambulance. How did your grandparents react to your sex scene in the ambulance? You know, to be honest, my my dad's parents, they're unfortunately gone at this point, but I know they would have loved it. They would have been so supportive and I think, I think at this but you know, my grandma watches for sure, but I don't think she quite understands what's going on, but she watches and she watches every week and she tells her friends about it and you know when I when I come home, you know she knows me as the grandson that's on TV. So she knows. She hasn't really voiced her opinion really, but did your mom have don't watches? I mean my mom loves it, my most she does. Yeah, my mom's a hair ambulance. My Mom's a hairdresser and so she's always, you know, at the at the hair shop with her friends and they all watch and they love it. I went in and and it was so funny. I had this like like meat and greet with all of the shop ladies and their daughters stuff and like signed like photos and I'm like you guys, I literally grew up with you. You like cut my hair. I'd like you know me what's going on. But they love it like power of brains. Ever on board. The thing about Harry premiered on February fifteen. You can stream it now on Hulu and Disney's free form. You can catch Jake as Dr Levy Schmidt on gray's anatomy, which is in its sixteen season, and you can follow him on instagram. That's kind of the best way. I'm on there all the time. I read all the comments at Jake Dot Barelli. Thanks for listening. Pride is a production of STRAHA media. If you like the show, leave us a rating and a review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you're tuning in from. Share us with your friends, subscribe and follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride. You can follow me at leave by chambers. Pride is produced by me, Maggie Bowls and Ryan Tillotson, edited by Sebastian alcolom. Today I was...

...getting my hair cut right and I was telling her that I was coming to talk to you and she goes, I love crazy, and she's telling me. Then she was like, yeah, I was in seventh grade when I started watching it. I was weak. Yeah, where you when it came out? Okay, do you're going to hate this? When it came out, I was too young to watch it. Oh No, Oh no,.

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