Disney+ reimagines Doogie Howser in first photos from Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.
Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. (TV series)
Move aside, Neil Patrick Harris!
On Sept. 8, Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. will premiere on Disney+, reimagining the Harris-led 1989 ABC series about a teenage doctor — only this time we're following 16-year-old Lahela "Doogie" Kamealoha (Peyton Elizabeth Lee), who's living in Hawaii as she struggles to balance her personal and professional life.
EW spoke with Lee about her experience playing the young genius and what to expect from the new series. Plus, check out the opening title sequence and exclusive first-look photos below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Were you familiar with the original Doogie Howser?
PEYTON ELIZABETH LEE: I was not personally familiar with the original; my parents knew about it and loved the show. When I got the audition I started watching it, but that was my first introduction to Doogie Howser.
How is your Doogie different from the one audiences know?
One of the really cool parts about this reimagining is that we take this iconic story and bring it into the world we're living in now. So it's a female lead instead of a male, and she is biracial, and it's in Hawaii so we have this beautiful backdrop. It has nods to the original but also feels very modern.
How would you describe Lahela?
Lahela is a 16-year-old doctor. [Laughs] As one is, you know. I got very excited about this character because I definitely relate to her in a lot of ways. I'm not a doctor, obviously, but I do spend a lot of my time in a professional setting with adults, and having adult expectations placed on you and living that double life of being a professional and then also being a teenager. As the series progresses we see Lahela navigating that and balancing those two worlds.
How difficult was it to pick up all the medical jargon?
Every night I would get home to learn my lines and have to Google everything. Not only are you saying it, but you're trying to say it in a way that seems like you say it all the time. [Laughs] It gave me a whole new level of respect for the actors on Grey's Anatomy.
In terms of what to expect from the episodes, is there a case-of-the-week format?
Every episode has the medical story line, and then it also has her personal story line. In some episodes you'll see the line blur between her personal life and her professional life, but definitely in every episode you'll see some sort of medical story and also a personal story.
What was the most difficult aspect of this role for you?
It's always very important to me to try as much as I can to pull from real life experience and portray these events as authentically as I can, and so when there were scenes about me going into surgery or performing these procedures, I had no real-life experience to pull from or anything even close to the situations that Lahela was in, so I would say that was the biggest challenge. It was really important to me that when you watch the show you believe that she's a doctor, you buy into this idea of a 16-year-old doctor and it not seeming ridiculous. We had a doctor on set anytime we were shooting hospital scenes, and I would just drill lines with him and go through the procedures with him and we would watch videos and he would show me how he did things and what these words even meant to really create the most authentic portrayal of what it would be like if there was a 16-year-old doctor.
What's her relationship like with her parents?
One of the most heartfelt relationships in the show is the relationship Lahela has with her mom [played by Kathleen Rose Perkins]. She and her mom have this very special connection where her mom is also her boss, and so she has to navigate when she's her mom's daughter and when she's her mom's co-worker. But at the foundation of the relationship it's all love. It is Lahela's parents that really ground her. She has so many responsibilities, and her parents are always there to remind her that she is a 16-year-old girl and 16-year-old girls make mistakes and have crushes on boys and have troubles with their friends. They remind her that those things are okay and she should embrace that side of her as much as she embraces the child prodigy genius side of her.
Are her friends able to understand the responsibilities of her job?
Her best friend in the show, Steph [Emma Meisel], they've known each other since they were little kids. What's so special about the two of them is that Steph sees Lahela as her best friend instead of this famous child doctor, so in a sense she really keeps her grounded. They relate to each other on that level. But you will see tension because of the very different lives that they live and the different priorities that they have and how they exist in very different worlds in a lot of ways.
Did you have a say in Lahela's amazing footwear?
A really fun part of it was working with our costume designer to have these little reminders that she's still a kid. She's in the hospital and she's wearing her new Air Force 1s.
Disney+ reboots 'Doogie Howser, M.D.' with a new precocious young doctor.