Jake Borelli Has "Finally" Made It Into the "Grey's Anatomy" OGs Group Chat

Jonny Marlow
Jonny Marlow

In our Q&A series POPSUGAR Crush, we get to know some of our favorite celebs' more intimate details — from their perfect date night to their best love advice. This month, we're crushing on "Grey's Anatomy" series regular Jake Borelli.

Dr. Levi Schmitt's entrance into the "Grey's Anatomy" universe was a memorable one. In the season 14 premiere episode, intern Schmitt's first day at Grey Sloan Memorial is punctuated by his glasses accidentally falling into an open body cavity. His portrayer, Jake Borelli, says Dr. Schmitt's trajectory since — through hell and back in recent seasons — has "mirrored" much of his own path with the long-running ABC medical drama.

"When I first started the show . . . I was jumping on a moving train and being thrust into work with a lot of these idols that I had looked up to, in terms of television actors and whatnot," Borelli tells POPSUGAR. "And it was so inspiring to see these people work at the top of their game within television and drama acting. I really couldn't have asked for a better show to grow on and learn on and be a part of."

Borelli, 31, was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being an actor. Like many Hollywood hopefuls, though, success did not come easily — or quickly. Disheartened by the industry, he packed it up quite literally. "I moved to New York and quit my job and sold my car and everything and was like, 'Screw LA, I'm done,' " he recounts. "And then six weeks later I booked 'Grey's' off of a taped audition."

So sans-wheels, Borelli headed back to Los Angeles to film his first season in 2017. And even with a role secured on one of the longest-running and most popular cable series of all time, Borelli wasn't ready to fully trust that he'd secured screen success just yet. "I literally started driving for Lyft because you can get a car if you drive a certain amount of hours a week. And so I was driving for Lyft in between scenes at 'Grey's' for my first year," he says.

"I really couldn't have asked for a better show to grow on and learn on and be a part of."

Now, five seasons later, Schmitt is "more grounded" and "knows the weight of being a surgeon," while Borelli knows the joy of securing a spot in the "Grey's" cast member group chat. "I finally made it into the group chat," he says, laughing. "It took me several years, but I'm finally in the group chat, which is great. And then there's also little subgroup chats. We have an intern chat and all of that. But I finally made it into the big OG group chat."

In all seriousness, though, Borelli is pinching himself at the opportunities "Grey's" has afforded him onscreen and off (He's been shadowing episode directors, in hopes of helming an episode, he says). "Certainly out of any queer character I've seen, I definitely relate with Levi the most for obvious reasons," says Borelli, who came out publicly in 2018. "Had I seen a character like this as a young person, it would've made me feel so much more comfortable in my body at an earlier age, and it would've made me feel less confused and less, sort of, tormented by what was going on with me that I didn't understand. It would've been a game changer."

Ahead, get to know Borelli better — from his easy-to-achieve signature scent to the reality competition show he feels he'd dominate on.

What's your signature scent?

I am so sensitive to smells. I get headaches if I'm too close to too much perfume. But I do often get told that people like the way I smell because I strictly use Irish Spring body wash. And I have this Paul Mitchell curl paste that I put in my hair every single day. There's something about the mix between those two scents, I don't know. People are always like, "What cologne are you wearing?" And I'm like, "I'm not wearing any cologne, I've just been doing this since I was like 16 years old." Also, I wear Degree Cool Rush deodorant. So it's the mix between all three . . . You can get it all at Target!

What's your go-to drink order?

If I'm at a bar I'm a Moscow Mule kind of guy. . . . But at home I've been doing just whiskey on the rocks. Richard Flood, who played one of the doctors (Dr. Cormac Hayes) a couple seasons ago, he got us all bottles of whiskey during the pandemic season. Ever since then I'm like a whiskey connoisseur . . . I got a Woodford also because I'm basic and just love shopping at Trader Joe's. And they have Woodford at Trader Joe's.

What's your biggest pet peeve?

Oh my gosh. My biggest pet peeve is truly when people cross the street without looking both ways. And I know it sounds super simple, but even when I'm driving and I'm pulling up to a crosswalk and someone just, even though they have the right of way, they don't make eye contact with me. Make eye contact with me so that you know we're good! You know what I mean? I'm like, "Come on? People can't drive. You got to look both ways." I try to teach my niece that every time I see her.

What's your perfect date night?

I'm a huge hiker. I love hiking on dates specifically, so I'm more of a day-date kind of guy. I meet for coffee and then go on a hike and stuff, and then maybe through the evening go out for a beer or something. I live right by this really cool German beer garden, so hitting that up after a hike would be so fun.

What's your favorite thing to cook?

My favorite thing is this chicken recipe that my dad would always make when we were younger, which is basically just chicken and bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions in a giant pot, and he makes a sauce with tomatoes and stuff. I do that. I'm also known for a good meatloaf.

What's your comfort movie or TV show?

I always watch "Survivor." I'm already almost done on my second full binge of all 43 seasons of "Survivor." So if you put that on in the background, I'll definitely veg out for an entire day.

Would you want to compete on "Survivor"?

I want to go on "Survivor" yesterday. I literally want to be on it so bad. . . . I would win. I would destroy everybody. I'd be so good. ... [I have a lot of strategy from watching.] I even played in the park one time — some guy set it up and he didn't know anyone who was playing. We showed up at Griffith Park at six o'clock in the morning and we played until midnight with no food. I got second place and I think I was robbed.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

I grew up going to The Bahamas when I was super young and that's got to be my favorite. But I went on a trip — my dad and my brother worked and still work for United Airlines, and so when I was younger, we could fly standby for free, which was incredible and life-changing. My brother and I one time went to Japan for my birthday, and that was my favorite place I've ever been.

What is the most romantic thing that you have ever done or has been done for you?

So I'm a painter, and when I first moved out to LA, I had done this painting of this green monster named Fred. He has this pink background and it's hanging in my bedroom right now. And I even painted this giant mural of the pink background above my bed and people sort of started to follow along on Instagram, Fred's journey. And so my Christmas gift from my boyfriend was, he painted a boyfriend for Fred, so he painted the same pink background and a blue monster, and it's Fred's boyfriend and it's hanging on the other side of the bedroom. They're just staring at each other.

"I want [Schmitt] to just step further into his queerness and really explore things."

What romantic advice would you give to Levi?

Schmitt's so sweet. To be honest, I just want him to get out there. I want him... I don't know that it's romantic, but I'd be like, "Go make out with a random dude." I want him to just step further into his queerness and really explore things. He was in a relationship for so long. I want him to spread his little gay wings.

What is your dream role?

I went to be on a network sitcom so bad, full-on. I'm obsessed with sitcoms. I used to be on a little kid's sitcom called "The Thundermans" on Nickelodeon. And so to sort of mix that skill with what I've learned on "Grey's" would be my dream.