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On this week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy (Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/MT on CTV), the one-sided flirtation between new Fellow Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi) and resident Dr. Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) finally came to a head when the two men shared a kiss in the elevator. It was a moment that caused Borelli’s Schmitt to confront himself, acknowledging that he did have feelings for his male co-worker. For Borelli himself, the scene inspired him to come out publicly, in an effort to help other members of the LGBTQ community feel seen.

Borelli, who has been out to his friends and family for the past decade, received a call from showrunner Krista Vernoff before Season 15 began filming and learned that Schmitt would be part of the first gay storyline between two men on Grey’s Anatomy. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Borelli said his first call was to his family. “My dad said, ‘When you have a truth about yourself and you finally have the courage to speak up and share that truth, a weight gets lifted.’ I knew in that moment this is the right thing to do. This is bigger than me.”

CTV

Following the US airing of Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday night, Borelli publicly came out on Instagram, posting a moving caption to accompany a picture of the actor smiling and wearing a rainbow bandana.

“As a gay guy myself, tonight’s episode was so special to me. 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,” wrote Borelli. “His vulnerability and courage inspire me every day, and I hope he can do the same for you. To all of you who feel like little Levis out there, know that I do too, that you are seen, and that we’re all in this together. And to everyone who has supported me over the years, I can’t thank you enough, and I love you more than all the stars…”

Borelli’s Instagram was immediately flooded with messages of support, with Schmitt’s storyline affecting millions of loyal Grey’s Anatomy viewers. The actor says that he understands the importance of seeing a character like Schmitt on screen, revealing to EW that watching Degrassi: The Next Generation had a huge impact on him growing up. The long-running Canadian series featured a number of characters who were gay, including Adamo Ruggiero’s Marco, who, like Borelli, was inspired to eventually come out following his on-screen character’s reveal.

“I finally felt seen and understood from a piece of art. 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,” said Borelli. “I get a chance to act in a storyline I would have craved when I was younger.”

Vernoff says that the writers for Grey’s Anatomy were excited to write for Borelli, with Vernoff finding inspiration for Schmitt’s storyline from a friend from college who always seemed unsure of himself until he came out. “[He] emerged as a completely different human being because he was living in his truth,” Vernoff told EW. “Living in his truth seemed to set something free in him where he was no longer tripping over his own feet. He emerged with strength and power and sex appeal that had not existed in him publicly prior and when I remembered my friend, I wanted to tell that story with Jake because it felt like a really beautiful way to evolve his character.”

Grey’s Anatomy has always understood the importance of seeing characters with different backgrounds and experiences on the show. In October, actor Ellen Pompeo appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and shared a touching moment she had with a young actor who appeared on Season 14. The actor, who is gay in real life, played a gay teenager in the episode ‘Old Scars, Future Hearts.’

“After we had filmed the whole entire episode, he said to me, ‘My whole life, I’ve watched this show with my parents and I’ve sort of used the show as a way to tell my parents that I was gay and to show my parents that it’s okay, that I’m not different, that there’s nothing wrong with me,’” said Pompeo. “’Grey’s really helped my parents understand what having a gay son meant and it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. For my parents now to see me as an actor getting a part on this show has just been everything.’”

Watch Grey’s Anatomy every Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/MT on CTV.