Jake Borelli Leaving ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Next Season As Veteran Series Regulars Eye Episode Reductions

EXCLUSIVE: Jake Borelli will be departing ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy after seven years on the show, including being a series regular for the past five seasons, Deadline has learned. According to sources, Borelli is in negotiations to return next season for several episodes to wrap up the story of his character, Levi Schmitt.

Amid overall decline in linear ratings, it has become common practice for broadcast networks to ask for financial concessions on long-running series, which naturally become pricier as they age. As a high-end drama series headed into its 21st season with a large cast, most of whom have been on the show for years, Grey’s is expensive. I hear its renewal — like many other broadcast shows’ these days — came with a budget cut.

More from Deadline

That is impacting the cast, with established stars faced with a reduction of their episodic guarantees, which means that they may be in fewer episodes next year, sources said. Reps for ABC and ABC Signature, which produces Grey’s Anatomy, declined comment.

Brett Tucker, Jake Borelli, Kelly McCreary in Season 15 CR: ABC
Brett Tucker, Jake Borelli, Kelly McCreary in Season 15 CR: ABC

Borelli’s Levi Schmitt has been a popular character on the long-running medical drama who started as an intern at the start of Season 14 and was most recently a senior resident working with the new group of interns at Grey Sloan Memorial.

Over the years, Levi has had major arcs, including spiraling after losing a patient during the 2021-22 season, and he was the only one from his class of interns to stay on after the residency program was disbanded at the end of that season.

Since then, Levi has been focused mostly on guiding the new group of interns through the pitfalls of becoming a surgeon. He did have a moment this season when he ran into his former boyfriend Dr. Nico Kim (Alex Landi) — now in a new relationship and expecting a child via surrogate.

Borelli will always be part of the Grey’s Anatomy history. In season 15, he was part of a major LGBTQ storyline featuring the series’ first openly gay male character, Nico (Landi), the first kiss between two male doctors when Nico and Levi locked lips in an elevator, with the duo’s relationship becoming the first gay romance involving two male doctors on the show. As the groundbreaking storyline kicked off on screen, Borelli also publicly came out as a gay man.

As for the rest of the Grey’s veterans, I hear episodic guarantees — the number of episodic fees per season each series regular is entitled to per their contract — are being renegotiated and are expected to go down across the board.

This way actors are not taking per-episode pay cuts though their overall compensation will go down as they will appear in fewer episodes, something the writers have to be mindful of as they craft next season’s scripts.

This is common cost-saving practice, which also was employed by One Chicago and Law & Order franchise last year across all six series.

A budget-reduction alternative is cutting cast’s salaries, which happened on Blue Bloods last year, or making some of the series regulars recurring, which we saw on shows like Bob Hearts Abishola and Superman & Lois.

Such cuts have become inevitable in the current challenging economic environment as TV production is getting more expensive and media congloms are putting a stronger emphasis on their balance sheets.

UPDATE: Following Deadline’s story, Borelli, who is turning 33 today, posted a video of him blowing candles and exclaiming, “What a time to be alive.” The post was accompanied by a caption, “Well, Happy Birthday to me…”.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.