When Grey's Anatomykicks off season 17, it'll be five weeks into the coronavirus pandemic with the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital on high alert as they go to the front lines to try to get a handle on the virus and keep it under control. That's easier said than done, of course. As Grey's actor Jake Borelli, who plays surgical resident Dr. Levi Schmitt, teed up the medical drama's new season, adding a pandemic to the picture doesn't quell his character's neuroses and anxieties.
"He has been [neurotic] before, and I don't necessarily think people change overnight. So I think it's going to be very interesting to see how someone like Schmitt deals with something like this," Borelli recently told ET's Katie Krause over Zoom, calling the season "dramatic, hopeful and wild." "That being said, we've also seen him stand in his power a little bit more and he grew a lot last season. So I'm hoping he's able to step up and really prove himself this year."
Though last season was abruptly cut shortly due to the pandemic, the premiere fills in the blanks of all the major cliffhangers left unresolved via a series of flashbacks. Answers to the aftermath of Teddy and Koracick's affair and the state of DeLuca's mental health, for instance, will all come to light. As for Levi, he's moved into Jo's apartment and the two are now roommates.
Following Alex's sudden exodus to a Kansas farm to reunite with Izzie, Borelli says Schmitt and Jo's roommate adventures are a necessary layer of "levity." "Jaicy Elliot from Grey's lives, like, two blocks from me and we have leaned on each other immensely over these past eight months. In Grey's world, I think Jo is sort of that for Levi, and vice versa," he said.
But one moment in an early trailer put Grey's fans on the edge of their seats, when it appeared Bailey was sitting on a hospital bed with Levi by her side. Just the fleeting visual of Bailey possibly in duress, even if it isn't COVID-related, is a distressing sight to see. "That trailer freaked everybody out and it's very true to what this season is going to bring. It's going to bring a lot of those moments, like seeing Bailey in that gurney," Borelli hinted, before coyly saying, "You've just got to watch on the 12th. You'll love it."
"COVID is a really, really hard world and I think it's going to be interesting to see how the doctors deal with COVID in all respects," he added later, skirting around the question of whether a Grey Sloan doctor contracts the coronavirus due to being in close contact with patients. "But hospitals have been the hardest hit and I think it's going to be interesting to see into the lives of these doctors. This is Shondaland, so I would definitely have some tissues ready for sure."
Borelli hinted that the premiere does in fact have a "shocking, jaw-dropping" ending, as promos have teased. "When that ending happened, huge gasp," he recalled. "We were all just, like, hoping they would give us script No. 3, which they didn't so we had to just -- just like you have to wait -- but all I know is episode 3, you guys are going to enjoy just as much... We love it because it's a roller coaster. It's a Shondaland roller coaster and this season is going to be no different."
As for the state of Levi and Nico's romantic future, Borelli said there's always a possibility that the former couple could rekindle their relationship. But with COVID and other external factors taking precedent, don't expect it to happen just yet.
"They broke up and then the pandemic hits, and Nico is still there and I think we're going to see both of them just like we all are in real life trying to navigate a relationship in this new world," he said. "I think it brings a lot to light in terms of what's important to a person but then it also makes things a lot more difficult. So it's going to be interesting to see how everyone navigates these relationships."
"I'm a huge fan of Schmico," Borelli continued, referring them by their couple name. "It makes me so giddy. I hope [Nico] does [have a change of heart] because I truly believe that Levi deserves more than what he gave him in season 16, so we'll see if it changes him. I have hope." Or maybe it's time to introduce a gay love triangle? "That would be so fun," he expressed. "We need a gay male love triangle. That's something I want to see as an audience [member]. We'll see if it shows up."
If Levi and Nico do eventually move on in new directions romantically, Borelli has hopes for what that could look like for Levi -- and what his future as a doctor may be at Grey Sloan.
"I would love Levi to find the love he deserves and the love that he needs," he said. "And then on the flip side, I would love for him to stand with his power and grow as a surgeon. I would love to see him specialize. There's a lot of debate of will he specialize, where will he specialize? So I would love to get a chance to see that and I know the fans will too. I love Levi. I hope he keeps going."
Grey's Anatomyreturns with a two-hour premiere Thursday Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, after the premiere of Station 19. For more on the three-hour crossover premiere event, watch the video below.