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Peyton Elizabeth Lee: 'Doogie Kamealoha' pays homage to 'Doogie Howser'

At 16, Doogie Kamealoha (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is the youngest doctor in her hospital. Photo courtesy of Disney
At 16, Doogie Kamealoha (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is the youngest doctor in her hospital. Photo courtesy of Disney

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. star Peyton Elizabeth Lee said the Disney+ series, premiering Wednesday, pays homage to its predecessor. The show is a modern update of Doogie Howser, M.D.

"You don't have to have seen the original to understand it and appreciate it," Lee said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "But we pay homage to the original and keep, hopefully, the spirit of the original alive."

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Doogie Howser ran from 1989 to 1993 on ABC and starred Neil Patrick Harris as a teenage doctor. Doogie Kamealoha stars Lee as Lehala Kamealoha, a Hawaiian teen prodigy who graduated medical school and became a physician by age 16.

In Harris' show, "Doogie" was a nickname for Douglas. The staff of Kamealoha's hospital nicknamed Lehala "Doogie" because they had watched the original show.

Lee said her parents were among the original show's fans.

"Right when I got the audition, I remember my parents being so excited because they loved the show," Lee said. "I was discovering the original as we were developing our reimagining of it simultaneously."

The 17-year-old's father, Andrew Tinpo Lee, also is an actor. Her mother, Jennifer Dormer Lee, is a psychologist.

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The younger Lee studied for the role of a practicing physician and said she had professionals on set with whom she could consult when she had questions.

"There was a lot of Googling and a lot of YouTube'ing and WebMD'ing," Lee said. "In addition, we had a doctor on set anytime we were shooting medical scenes, and so I would drill lines with him or go through the procedures with him."

Lee said her dialogue includes a lot of medical jargon, and she said she researched each term so she would understand the background of her dialogue.

"To buy into the show, you really have to buy into this idea of a teenage doctor," Lee said. "It wasn't just about memorizing these medical monologues that they wrote, but about knowing what I was saying and what all these words meant so that it felt very truthful."

Kamealoha's mother, Clara (Kathleen Rose Perkins), is a doctor at the same hospital as Lehala. Perkins said Lee sets the bar to which all the other actors have to rise.

"The first day we saw her do this huge scene where she's suturing somebody while she's just rattling all this stuff off," Perkins said. "It was so annoying how good she was at saying this stuff."

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Before Doogie Kamealoha, Lee starred as the title character on the Disney Channel series Andi Mack from 2017 to 2019. She said she felt more comfortable starring in her second TV show, but still feels like she's just getting started.

"I did still have that youthful excitement about it all because this is my dream," Lee said. "Getting to live it anytime is all I've ever hoped for."

Kamealoha creator Kourtney Kang said she set the series in Hawaii because she was born in Hawaii. Jason Scott Lee plays Lehala's father, Benny, a coach. Lehala also has two brothers (Matthew Sato and Wes Tian).

"I had the idea of setting the show in Hawaii and featuring a family that looked like mine," Kang said

Doogie Kamealoha films on location. When she is not treating patients, Kamealoha catches waves on the beach.

Andrew Tinpo Lee also surfs and has taken his daughter out on the waves, Peyton Elizabeth Lee said. Lee said she practiced surfing, in addition to her medical research.

"When we got to Hawaii, we started practicing and preparing for the surfing because I wanted it to look as good as possible," Lee said.

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