Just like the ‘90s show that served as its inspiration, the new Disney+ series “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” focuses on a doctor who happens to be a teenager. It was Neal Patrick Harris who played the medical prodigy in the original “Doogie Howser.” This time it is Peyton Elizabeth Lee in the starring role of Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha.
The series is not a continuation or reboot of “Doogie Howser.” That show was just a launching point as it became common practice in the real world to refer to any very young doctor as Doogie.
If you tune in the series now available on the streaming service, it will quickly become apparent there is another aspect of the show that will be a source of stories. Doogie’s parents are played by the radically different Kathleen Rose Perkins (“Big Shot”) as Dr. Clara Hannon and Jason Scott Lee (“Mulan”) as Benny Kamealoha.
She is a determined and driven doctor from the mainland who is dealing with being the boss and mom to the medical whiz. He is a local who runs a food truck, has a knack with flowers and will dance when asked.
Because this is a new series, the spotlight will be hot and heavy on Doogie. But, Perkins promises viewers will get to see how this very different couple got together.
“It is an interesting pairing because they are totally yin and yang. But, it works,” Perkins says. “You will get to see the behind-the-scenes of how it came to be and what we did.”
“We didn’t meet in Hawaii. We met on the mainland and because we were going to start a family, we chose to move to Hawaii so we could bring our children up in the spirit of aloha.”
Their roles as Doogie’s parents are key to the show as Lahela is dealing with the demands and pressures of being a doctor while also facing the trials of being a teenager. They will have to find the balance between letting their daughter make her way on her own and being there for guidance or support when needed.
Even the actors are extremely different. Perkins is a Michigan native who is best known for her roles in TV comedy series such as “Episodes” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” Landing the role in “Doogie” is a 180-degree change for Perkins as the episodes of “Episodes” were very adult.
She laughs and says that most of her nieces and nephews have not seen her work.
“Most of the stuff I have done, they couldn’t see because their parents wouldn’t allow them to watch,” Perkins says. “It is really exciting to be part of something that is not just for kids. It is a family show.
“I hope that people of all ages will respond well to it.”
Jason Scott Lee – who was raised in Hawaii – is best known for action roles such as “Mulan” and “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.”
His dramatic background was a major concern when Lee auditioned for this light comedy. He is certain the producer had their doubts as to whether or not he would be able to handle the comedy.
“I was pretty sure that I could handle it,” Lee says. “It just hasn’t been the path that I have taken. I thought this could be fun. I get to play goofy. I get to play this local guy who has all these nuances that I grew up with.
“As part as for me playing the part, I am a dead ringer for it.”
Lee’s days growing up in Hawaii proved valuable when putting the show together, especially when deciding how much of the local language would be used.
“We had long discussions over how much pidgin English you’re going to work into it. Are you going to ramp it up? Are you going to ramp it back? Is it going to be what caliber of character is he? Is he a beach bum kind of thing?,” Lee says. “I think we worked out a nice balance with everything. And I think we found a good authenticity.
“I can’t fake it that I’m local. So we found little treasures within all of that. I brought kind of a lot in between the lines.”
The fact Lee is getting to work on something comedic in a place he calls home made this an ideal job for him. Perkins agrees and says that she wouldn’t want anyone at Disney+ to know it, but they didn’t have to play her as much to be a part of this series.
“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” is shot on location in O’ahu. The cast also includes Matthew Sato (“Hawaii Five-O”) as Kai Kamealoha, Wes Tian as Brian Patrick Kamealoha, Emma Meisel (“American Horror Story”) as Steph, Mapuana Makia (“Finding ‘Ohana”) as Noelani and Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (“UnREAL”) as Charles.
For the record, the parents on “Doogie Howser” were played by Belinda Montgomery and James Sikking.