Grey's Anatomy Season 16 will see Jake Borelli as one of three recurring stars bumped up to series regular status for 2019-2020. It's an exciting promotion for Borelli's chracter, Levi Schmitt, aka "Glasses." It's also the surprise result of what he told CinemaBlend was craziest casting experience of his acting career so far.
I had moved to New York, I had sold everything after being in L.A. for eight years. I got rid of my apartment and all my furniture. I drove to all the way to New York. I was there for two months. I had sent an audition tape back to L.A. for the [Grey's Anatomy] role of Levi Schmitt. I was kind of in the mindset of 'Oh great, this is the biggest show ever, there's no way I'm possibly going to get this role.' So we just put it on tape and totally forgot about it.
As you already know, that's not quite how it ended. But the turnaround for Grey's Anatomy was a lot faster than Jake Borelli expected:
Two weeks later, I got a call from my agent basically saying they want me on set -- this is like 9:30 at night New York time -- and they wanted me on set the next day to film. And I was like 'What?' And they're like 'Yeah, can you get back to L.A. by 10 a.m.?' I was like 'Oh God, I don't know if I can!' I ended up buying a red eye flight that night and I made it into L.A. in perfect timing to go straight from LAX to set, and went through hair and makeup without sleeping and filmed for the first day.
So if it looks like Jake Borelli's Glasses is a bit shell-shocked at Grey Sloan in his first Season 14 episode in 2017, that might be art imitating life.
At that point, he said the role of Levi Schmitt was just a one episode co-star role, possibly two episodes. Jake Borelli's first two episodes of Grey's Anatomy Season 14, where he plays one of the med students sort of wreaking havoc on the hospital, was all that was ever supposed to be.
Then they invited me back for another episode. At that point I had already went back to New York. I was in L.A. for two weeks just to film those two episodes.
Jake Borelli said he didn't even know much about the role at that point, since he had just sent a tape in and all he ever read was the audition sides. He thought maybe his character got sick and was coming back to the hospital as a patient or something.
Once again, the night before I'm coming back for one episode, I get a call from my agent and he said, 'Hey they want you not just for one episode but they want you for eight episodes.' And I was like 'What?' And so I had to tell my roommate in New York, who I had lived with for only two months, that I was basically never coming back. And I got on a plane that night and I went to L.A. And the eight episodes have now turned two years, and I'm now a series regular.
Wow! I kind of feel sorry for the New York roommate, but it's a win for Jake Borelli. I'd lose hair from stress with all the night-before calls, but maybe that's typical for actors rising in the TV ranks. Jake Borelli, now 28, came to Grey's Anatomy after TV roles on Psych: Flashback to the Teen Years, iCarly, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Greek, plus a lead role in the Netflix movie Reality High.
Jake Borelli said he didn't know what Levi's arc was going to be on Grey's Anatomy -- including coming out and getting a boyfriend in Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi) -- it was just surprise after surprise.
The first year that I was playing Levi, I was playing him as a straight guy. Because you know he had slept with Camilla Luddington's character, Dr. Jo Wilson. So I was gathering new information, I sort of formed this character as someone who was straight. And then Season 15 came around, and that's when I got the pitch from Krista Vernoff, the showrunner, that she wanted to tell a coming out story with my character. And that's when we developed his backstory a little bit more and realized he was closeted for a while. It sort of came script by script for me, which I think is the normal thing for long-running television shows.
Levi Schmitt's role definitely developed over Grey's Anatomy Season 15. He stopped being a goofy side character called Glasses and became Dr. Schmitt, a respected member of the team. He got a great showcase in the Station 19 crossover episode, and was part of the big car pileup scene with Kevin McKidd's Owen Hunt in the season finale.
And, of course, Levi got a new romance with Nico Kim. Jake Borelli came out himself, via an Instagram post, at the same time that Levi had his coming out story on Grey's Anatomy. Levi and Nico's relationship hit a rough patch toward the end of Grey's Anatomy Season 15, but rallied in the fog-driven finale. Levi even introduced Nico to his mom -- as his boyfriend. So they will apparently be entering Grey's Anatomy Season 16 as a couple, with actor Alex Landi still a recurring star for ABC, despite his new role in Netflix's Insatiable Season 2. Hopefully Levi/Glasses also gets more scenes with these two actors in the 2019-2020 season, since that's what Jake Borelli said he wanted.
Grey's Anatomy Season 15 didn't have such a happy ending for everyone. Pity poor Tom Koracick, who still doesn't know about Teddy and Owen. Oh, and pity DeLuca for being in prison and Meredith Grey for possibly ending up there. And also maybe pity Mer for being fired, along with Alex Karev and Richard Webber. (Those firings can't possibly last, right?) And where is Jackson Avery? Find out when Grey's Anatomy Season 16 premieres this fall on ABC.