Levi Schmitt is not okay, and neither is the Grey’s Anatomy fandom.
By the end of Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 Episode 11, Levi slipped so far into a dark state that not even Webber could get him out of it. And after stating that he quit, there doesn’t appear to be an upside in sight.
We caught up with TV Fanatic favorite Jake Borelli to chat about Levi’s dark turn, representing the collective pandemic burnout, and what it’s like when Meredith Grey sings your high praises.
Check it out!
Jumping in, I have to commend you on your extraordinary performance with this latest story arc — Levi’s breakdown. The entire fandom is in “Protect Levi At All Cost” mode.
What was your reaction when you read that script and learned what would happen to Levi?
My heart dropped.
I’ve talked before about how the fans watch the show every Thursday, and our version of that is getting to the table read. It’s often the first time we’re reading the script about certain storylines, and so when I got that script, my heart dropped just as much as I’m sure the fans did.
As a fan of Levi, I just started immediately getting worried for Levi before I even started working on the episode. It was a lot. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the tweets and stuff from the fans after watching the previous two episodes. They’re definitely “Protect Levi Mode,” and I’m very grateful for that.
So Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 Episode 9 was a particularly stand-out performance because you didn’t have many lines in that one. You were obsessively washing your hands and everything, but conveying so much using all of your body –not so much words– was excellent.
What was your process like trying to get into that dark headspace for those scenes?
Thank you, I really appreciate that.
Yeah, I had zero lines, and we did our table read on Zoom now, and I went anyway because I love watching all the other people work, and I love seeing these big storylines unfold, and I remember Christopher was like, “Thanks, thanks for being here.” I didn’t say anything, and he’s like, “Great!”
And it was — it was a crazy experience. We did that hand washing stuff over the next three days, just washing, washing, washing, and once I was there with the blood on my hands and the prosthetics on my hand, it was like slipping into what Levi was going through.
It was pretty intense, and I was grateful to have Linda Klein directing. She’s the medical advisor and has been for the last eight seasons, so it was really great to have her there.
So how do you like slip in and out of those scenes? Is it difficult to shake off the high emotions in them?
Yeah, especially because Levi and I have so much in common. I feel for what he’s going through. It’s hard for him right now to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
It seems like there are layers to exploring his breakdown. We saw he was a rockstar amid the pandemic, but this devastating loss appears to be the floodgates opening, and everything at once is culminating in burnout.
I think we’re all going to that. It’s been an awful couple of years in a lot of ways for a lot of people.
While you’re in the middle of that trauma, it’s hard to process, and I think even me specifically, I’ve been in a mode where I am starting to process what happened to all of us over the last couple of years.
You’re exactly right, him inadvertently killing somebody, especially someone, Devon, who he is a huge fan of; it definitely was an up of everything he had been feeling for the past couple of years.
It’s funny that you say burnout because that is the exact story we told and that we’re trying to tell from the beginning. The writers wanted to tell that story for a long time, so he definitely burned out.
It’s essential to see that. We keep hearing, of course, about medical staff and others in the field burning out. They’ve alluded to it often, but now, your character is its face. We love and care about Levi, so we pay attention and are invested in this reality. I look forward to seeing the rest of it play out.
Okay, from a viewer’s perspective, it was maddening. Why did everybody initially drop the ball on Levi? Obviously, he needed more help and a psychologist, so it was so infuriating when everyone left him hanging.
Everybody is going through so much right now at this hospital.
They’re coming out of a pandemic. They’re coming out of a physician shortage. They’re coming out of the Webber method, which was supposed to revitalize the group and the hospital. And they’re seeing that all of their efforts are failing.
From Levi’s point of view, we see what he’s going through, and it doesn’t feel like he’s been supported like other residents have been in the past.
From a teacher’s perspective, we are dealing with a failure on their end. We’re dealing with them feeling like they didn’t support their students or they didn’t teach well enough. That’s really hard too. It’s a classic gray area on Grey’s Anatomy.
You had some great Levi and Webber scenes. Webber is so great when he’s in mentor mode. They were such dark moments and comical with him watching Levi play the videogame and not understanding what the hell it was. What was it like filming those?
I absolutely love Jim Pickens. He is so great!
I’ve always loved scenes where it’s like the O. G, established doctor, head of the hospital, paired with his newbie, young, someone who is still learning. That dichotomy is great, and to see Richard at Levi’s house for the first time and in Levi’s environment was humbling, and it was also hilarious.
Jim Pickens is trying to figure out what type of game Levi is playing …that was hilarious. It was the perfect balance to the darkness that both of those characters were going through.
It really shows you how beat down Levi is. Because you take possibly one of the best mentor characters in Richard, and even Richard can’t pull him out.
Yeah, even during that M&M, that was such an excellent performance. The physical representation of Levi wearing the glasses gives you a sense of just how far he backslid, and now he seems inaccessible.
He’s come full circle and not in a good way.
Speaking of mentors, how does it feel to know that you are Meredith Grey’s chosen one?
Helm is going to be pissed when she finds out!
I got so excited when I read that line in the script! Honestly, I had forgotten about when she was up in the gallery, and she said, “Cristina Yang wouldn’t have waited, and Alex Karev wouldn’t have waited, and I wouldn’t have waited.” When I saw it in the episode, I had forgotten, and it made me feel so good as a fan of the show!
You were getting name-dropped with the greats! And you’re Meredith Grey’s favorite.
Sadly we saw Levi push Nico away and end things with him. What can we anticipate from their relationship moving forward?
They have had so many ups and downs, but this one feels like the strongest Levi has been in his opinion towards Nico.
We have to remember Levi is going through some trauma, but after watching that episode, I realized how cold that interaction was, and I think neither of them dealt with it well, soI don’t know.
Everything with Levi is up in the air right now. With his professional life, he doesn’t want to leave the basement, and he quit. What can you tease about Levi’s future?
The show always follows the hospital, and we’re realizing that many people at the hospital are going through a lot in terms of the Webber Method failing and whether or not the hospital can survive with the physician shortage, I think.
The fact that some of the primary doctors on the show weren’t able to help their residents — they will be going through a lot. It’s tough; we heard Catherine Fox say that he’d lose his residency spot if Levi didn’t come back, and Levi quit.
It doesn’t look great, but I’m excited to see how the rest of the people at the hospital deal with the fact that Levi quit his residency.
You were also dishing on The Thing About Harry the last time we spoke.
We just had our second anniversary of The Thing About Harry, if I’m not wrong, on Valentine’s day!
I know. It made it to my Valentine’s weekend binge with Pretty Woman and While You Were Sleeping. It was such a great progressive film, and I still get traction with my review of it, and people still talk about it, which is really cool.
I love that people are still finding that movie. It had such a massive place in my heart, and I think it’s the rom-com that the queer community needs right now. I’m so glad that people are still watching it and loving it.
So are you ever going to give us any more romcoms because I would love that?
I would love to do another romcom. I would love to do a second Thing About Harry., so I’m always on board with that. I had a blast working with Peter Paige. I’d love to work with Peter Paige again.
Grey’s Anatomy returns with an all-new episode tonight at 9/8c on ABC.
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Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.