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11/02/2018 10:58 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2018

'Grey's Anatomy' Star Jake Borelli Comes Out As Gay Just After His Character Does

The actor spoke publicly about his sexuality after an episode where his character, Dr. Levi Schmitt, enjoyed a same-sex kiss.

Life imitated art this week for “Grey’s Anatomy” star Jake Borelli, who spoke publicly about his sexuality for the first time after his character, Dr. Levi Schmitt, enjoyed a same-sex kiss on the show.

“Flowers Grow Out of My Grave,” Thursday’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” featured Schmitt sharing a steamy smooch with Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi). It was the first kiss between two male doctors to be shown on the ABC series, now in its 15th season. According to showrunner Krista Vernoff, the kiss marks the start of the show’s first gay male romance. (Watch the scene above.) 

Shortly after “Flowers Grow Out of My Grave” aired, Borelli announced he was gay in an Instagram post, with a photo of him wearing a rainbow bandanna.

“As a gay guy myself, tonight’s episode was so special to me,” Borelli wrote. “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.”

The 27-year-old actor, whose credits include “Parenthood” and “NCIS,” told Entertainment Weekly he’s been open about his sexuality with friends and family for nearly a decade. As the big reveal for his “Grey’s Anatomy” character hit TV screens nationwide, he said, “I knew in that moment this is the right thing to do. This is bigger than me.”

Borelli said he feels particularly proud of Schmitt’s character arc this season because it gives him the chance “to act in a storyline I would have craved when I was younger.”

“I feel so connected to the character, and I’m super excited to go into work every day and bring this storyline to life,” he told EW. “I’ve had so many comments from fans of the show who are finally feeling seen by this story, and I just want to let them know that I feel seen, too. I’m right here with you and we’re all in this together.”

Kim and Schmitt’s relationship may be the show’s first between two male doctors, but “Grey’s Anatomy” has gone to inclusive lengths with other characters. In 2011, the show featured a same-sex wedding between Callie Torres, a bisexual doctor (played by Sara Ramírez), and Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), a doctor who is a lesbian. 

Last month, series star Ellen Pompeo cited the diversity of “Grey’s Anatomy” as one of the reasons she’s happy to remain on the show 15 seasons in. 

Pompeo said an actor had told her the show helped his parents “understand what having a gay son meant.”

“I gotta keep doing it, man!” she said. “We’re touching lives and making a difference.”

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