Late last year, Freeform announced that Grey’s Anatomy star Jake Borelli (above right, with costar Niko Terho) was slated to star in The Thing About Harry, a bona fide romantic comedy featuring two men falling in love. Of course, queer people on social media blew up with anticipation for something they’d never actually been privy to.
For all of the progress in LGBTQ visibility over the past few years — in films like Love, Simon, Booksmart, and Call Me By Your Name, and on TV, in Pose and in Freeform’s own Good Trouble — an old-fashioned queer rom-com with missed connections and giant overtures has by-and-large eluded LGBTQ people.
Borelli, who plays the sweet nerdy intern Levi on the long-running ABC medical drama, and who came out publicly in 2018, was the perfect guy to play the film’s lead character Sam — a witty, intellectual gay man who’s forced into taking a road trip back to his hometown with his high school nemesis, Harry (newcomer Terho). Then, a “will they or won’t they get together?” storyline begins between Sam and Harry, a former high school jock.
The film’s writer and director Peter Paige — who wooed TV audiences as the delightful Emmett Honeycutt on Queer As Folk 20 years ago before going on to become a creator of The Fosters and Good Trouble — set his queer rom-com around Valentine’s Day. In doing so, he challenged the space of the holiday romantic comedy that’s been the bread and butter of many a hetero-normative Hallmark Channel movie.
“I was so emotional about it because it was a thing that I didn’t believe could happen,” Borelli says of landing the role of Sam. “It was the lead of a movie, and it was the lead of a movie about queer people made by queer people. And [Paige] was allowing a queer person to act in it.”
Borelli, who hails from a generation of LGBTQ people who’ve come of age with more visibility than Paige’s generation, says that had he been able to see a traditional love story about queer men, it would have made an impact growing up.
“It would have changed so much. I’ve already grown up in a different world — in a world that is much more accepting and that is sort of like the byproduct of fights that generations before me have fought,” he says. “It would have saved me years and years and years of being in the closet.”
The Thing About Harry is set to premiere on Saturday, February 15, on Freeform.