Jake Borelli talks Levi’s burnout and trauma in Grey’s Anatomy

GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC/John Fleenor -- Acquired via Disney ABC Press
GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC/John Fleenor -- Acquired via Disney ABC Press /

Poor Levi! It’s hard not to feel for him with everything he’s going through in Grey’s Anatomy. Jake Borelli discussed Levi’s trauma and burnout in this exclusive interview.

We haven’t seen Jake Borelli’s Levi for a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy Season 18. The last we saw, he had suffered a break after losing a patient. Burnout and trauma have hit him hard, and he’s pushing everyone close to him away. If he doesn’t return to the hospital, he runs the risk of losing his place on the residency program.

That is if the residency program remains in place. We know that in Grey’s Anatomy Season 18, Episode 15, the program’s board is coming to Grey Sloan Memorial to look at the program and see if it is still fit for purpose. Could all the residents find themselves going elsewhere?

But let’s just focus on Levi right now. This is more than just the loss of a patient. This is burnout that has been building for some time. Borelli discussed that and what he’d like to see for Levi moving forward.

The doctors are facing burnout on Grey’s Anatomy

We started the interview with a discussion about burnout because that’s what it really is. The conversations around the scripts as the storyline unfolded were about burnout that doctors and nurses around the world are facing right now.

"“We started talking about doctor burnout, and burnout in general. I know that’s the story the writers wanted to tell about the last couple of years that the world has been going through. It’s been something that has really hit the medical community, and it’s a story we really wanted to tell. As you saw, it didn’t really end well.”"

We know Grey’s Anatomy isn’t just a drama for the sake of drama. It touches on real events. In fact, the entire 17th season bar one episode took place in the early part of the pandemic and moved into the Black Lives Matter movement. The finale was just a quick flash forward to get us to a point where COVID was done, but the aftermath isn’t.

Levi is suffering from more than trauma. He was a powerhouse throughout the pandemic, and that had to catch up on him eventually.

"“It’s trauma, and burnout, and shock; a lot of things coming at once, which I think is why its hit Levi so hard.”"

In fact, burnout and trauma isn’t something that only the doctors and nurses are facing. We are all facing the burnout of the last two years. How many people just want it to come to an end already? Mental health is at an all-time low around the world. So, when it came to preparing for these scenes, there wasn’t just the need for medical consultants on the set. Borelli was able to dig into his own burnout from the last two years to get into character.

Jake Borelli. Photo Credit: Jessica Castro
Jake Borelli. Photo Credit: Jessica Castro /

Who is there for Levi on the series?

There is a big question that comes up for many trauma survivors or many people who are there for their friends. Levi has been there for so many other characters on the series. Yet, when he needed help the most, people haven’t been there. Just look at the way Bailey reacted every time she saw him scrubbing his hands. She didn’t once think that he needed support rather than a telling off.

"“Yeah, and it’s definitely making Levi feel more alone. The shock of all this, it’s leading to Levi push people away. We saw Nico and Richard try to offer support, but Levi couldn’t accept that comfort. It’s really interesting for someone like Levi from that perspective. He’s always been there for people, but when he needs it, he doesn’t want to accept it.”"

Can Nico and Levi make it work on Grey’s Anatomy?

Pushing Nico away at the end hit me the most. The “don’t come back” was a really powerful moment.

"“Yeah, the tables have turned. People see [Nico] as the colder person, the one who doesn’t want to be in touch with his emotions, and now it’s Levi.”"

Many fans would love to see Nico and Levi make things work. Hopefully, Nico can be a patient person and realize that Levi needs support but also time. This couple has come so far since Nico initially didn’t think he wanted to be serious with Levi and now realizes that he does want to be.

“Me too,” Borelli shared when it came to this discussion about seeing the two make it work, “They have a huge part in my heart, so I’m rooting for them for sure.”

Jake Borelli. Photo Credit: Jessica Castro
Jake Borelli. Photo Credit: Jessica Castro /

The process at the table read and afterward

Table reads are an important part of the production process. It turns out that Borelli didn’t need to turn up to it since he had zero lines throughout the episode, but he still wanted to be there for his castmates.

"“Krista [Vernoff] said at the end, thank you so much for being here even though we didn’t give you any lines. I recognize that without lines, Levi was saying so much with his body, so it was an interesting table read for sure.”"

After filming the scenes, things can be quite dark. We’ve heard from actors on other shows that they’ve had to do things to get out of the headspace after difficult and emotional scenes. What about Borelli? Well, it turns out the Grey’s Anatomy set is full of light.

"“I love our crew. I’m friends with so many of them, so I’m just surrounded by people that I like. Once the cameras are off, we were with each other and it was fun.”"

It turns out the thing that plays on his mind is just Levi being happy again. Will he come out of it all? This is a character that has come full circle and not in a good way. The use of the glasses during the M&M (which was Borelli’s suggestion, by the way, and I loved it) made it clear that he’s lost some of his confidence. The glasses have become a protective layer to help him through this, but is it possible for him to find happiness again?

That’s something Borelli would like to see. However, it’s something he couldn’t share or tease about for the coming episodes. That’s fair, and we can’t wait to see what’s next and just hope that Levi can be like Izzy and so many others who managed to keep their jobs despite breakdowns.

Next. 15 most heartbreaking deaths on Grey's Anatomy. dark

What do you hope to see for Levi on Grey’s Anatomy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Grey’s Anatomy airs on Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC. Catch up on Hulu.