How to Woo “The Thing About Harry” Star Jake Borelli

"I’m still waiting for my big rom-com moment and someone to bear everything and tell me how they feel."

It’s time to add “Freeform and chill” to your app profile.

This weekend, the Disney-owned cable network premieres its original gay rom-com The Thing About Harry. A primo queer date-night flick, the film stars Grey’s Anatomy actor Jake Borelli as Sam, a jaded Chicago gay with old-school romantic ideals who is forced to reconnect with his former high school bully, the womanizing but beguiling jock Harry (Niko Terho), during a road trip to their hometown for their friends’ wedding. When Harry drops the bomb that he’s now pansexual, so begins a long, bumpy, complicated journey fraught with sexual tension, betrayals, and undeniable feels between the two seeming opposites.
 

The single-to-mingle Borelli rang up NewNowNext to discuss Harry—which was directed and co-written by Queer as Folk OG Peter Paige, who also portrays Sam’s wise older roomie—his favorite rom-coms, and his ideal meet-cute.

In real life are you more like Sam or Harry?

I am through and through Sam! But I’ve certainly dealt with Harrys in the dating world. [Laughs] I don’t want to call anyone out right now, but there are a lot of people like Harry who take it one day at a time and go with the flow. They’re fun, and they certainly showed me a lot about the world, which is nice.

Is Sam more of a Grindr or Tinder guy?

Tinder, because I feel like it’s easier to get a relationship on Tinder than on Grindr. I don’t know if we would see Sam on Grindr.

Freeform/Parrish Lewis
Niko Terho (left) and Jake Borelli in The Thing About Harry.

Harry keeps putting Sam through the emotional wringer, but is there a limit to what someone should get away with before you tell them, “Bye Felicia”?

I think it’s a case-by-case thing, and everyone needs to trust their own gut and know what they’re willing to take and how much they’re willing to forgive. What’s great about Sam is he really believes in humanity and that people can change for the better. I value that he gave Harry a chance to win him back, and that’s something I’d like to believe I’d do.

How did you and Niko get along?

Off set, Niko is awesome. We hung out a bit in Chicago and he met my family members who live there. We talked a lot about the characters and sat down with Peter Paige and broke down everything that goes on in the script and who these people really are. We did a lot of backstory work and improvs about how they were in high school together. It was really fun.

How was Peter most helpful in directing you?

I think Sam is a lot like both Peter and me. Peter pulled a lot from his youth for this movie, and I think he saw a lot of me in the character when he was writing it, so it was a bit of an amalgamation of the two of us. It was good to have him walking me through the thing.

Freeform/Parrish Lewis
Karamo and Borelli in The Thing About Harry.

And Queer Eye’s Karamo also makes a memorable, extended cameo.

Karamo was wonderful. We loved having him on set. He’s a sort of self-help coach through and through. It’s really good to have him in my life.

What’s your go-to rom-com?

Oh, I love 27 Dresses. That’s my favorite rom-com of all time. I also really love The Notebook, which isn’t really a rom-com, but it’s certainly a romance and I’ve probably seen it 50 times. I love it.

If your life were a rom-com, what would be your ideal meet-cute?

Oh gosh! I’ve always wanted to go on an awesome, whirlwind camping adventure with somebody. I guess that’s not necessarily a meet-cute, but it’s hard to plan those things, right?

Well, let’s try! How about you and some friends go camping and a bear murders everyone, but you get away and find refuge in a cabin with a really hot guy who saves you?

I mean, that one sounds amazing minus the deaths of all of my friends, but let’s go with that!

Jake Borelli and Niko Terho.
Freeform/Vu Ong

The climax of The Thing About Harry involves a sweet yet awkward gesture. Has anyone done anything like that to woo you?

I haven’t had a lot of sweeping rom-com moments in my life. I tend to be friends with people first and it moves from there. I’m still waiting for my big rom-com moment and someone to bear everything and tell me how they feel.

Are you single?

I’m pretty single.

What is the best way to woo you?

Just be yourself. That’s all anyone can do.

You came out via an Instagram post in November 2018 at the same time your Grey’s Anatomy character, surgical intern Levi Schmitt, did.

Yeah. It truly felt like I was taking the next step in my coming-out process and like the most “me” thing I could do at that time. It’s mind-blowing how many people have actually reached out to me [after that]. It’s been an everyday thing for the last year and a half, and even to this day I pull up my Twitter or Insta and have so many new messages from queer people around the world, especially queer youth, about how much it means to them that they have characters in shows like this that reflect their lives.

Kelsey McNeal via Getty Images
Borelli in Grey’s Anatomy.

Has Grey’s Anatomy inspired you to become a doctor if the acting thing ever fizzles?

I don’t think I could handle being a doctor in real life given the things I’ve seen on the show. I mean, at the beginning of last season there was a girl who got hit by a car and her legs got wound up in her bicycle. That was pretty disgusting. They had these amazing prosthetic legs on her, though, and it looked so real. It was pretty gnarly!

Could Harry spawn a sequel?

Oh, I would love to do The Thing About Harry 2. That’s up to the creative people making it, but I would be totally on board.

Besides rom-coms, what else do you like to “blank and chill” with these days?

I’m obsessed with Survivor right now. I’ve been binge-watching it since July and am up to Season 22, and I can’t get enough. It’s so good! I would love to do Survivor, and I think I would actually get pretty far and be pretty good at it.

What would your one item from home be? Deodorant? I heard that everyone stinks after a few days!

I’d probably bring a journal. I don’t have the best long-term memory, so I would want to document what’s going on. I feel like bringing deodorant, you’d just be fighting a losing battle.

The Thing About Harry premieres February 15 on Freeform.

Lawrence is a New York-based travel and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Time Out New York and The New York Post.
@LawrenceFerber