by Erin Chew, AsAmNews Contributor
Imagine being a teenager, still in high school, dealing with relationship woes and being a genius doctor in a hospital? It is definitely a juggling act for someone young and exceptional and this is the key theme of Disney Plus’ new upcoming series “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D“.
Created by Kourtney Kang, who was also the producer for “Fresh Off The Boat”, this re-imagined version of the original “Doogie Howser” is set in Hawaii, features a culturally diverse cast, and most importantly, inspired by Kourtney’s own family makeup and her lived experiences growing up mixed race.
Kang: “My dad is Korean, my mom is Irish and I was born in Hawaii, so this series was the perfect storm for me. When I heard Disney was looking to re-boot the show, I saw it as an opportunity to tell my version of what this story would be in Hawaii.”
“It was fun to re-imagine this to be mine and have my story be the inspiration for the show. And when you add the elements of local Hawaii culture, mixed race and multiple identities and being a young girl figuring out her complex life, it is definitely something which has transformed the original series to something else.”
Peyton Elizabeth Lee plays the lead for the series – “Lahela ‘Doogie’ Kamealoha”, who lives that complex teenage life of being a young woman of color, a genius in high school and starting her early medical career. This is a direct contrast to the original “Doogie Howser”, where the “Doogie” was played by a white male living that complex life of starting his medical career. For Peyton, playing “Lahela”, she knew she had to take the show in her lead role as her own and into the culturally diverse world we are in today.
Lee: “What’s special about our re-imagining of this series is that you don’t need to have seen the original “Doogie Howser” to understand and appreciate our version. For us and in my role as “Lahela”, it was about taking it to the next level and one set in Hawaii, where our everyday lives is about diverse cultures, island life and intersections of coming from a mixed-race family.”
The series focuses a lot on relationship dynamics and a mixed-race family dynamic. “Lahela ‘Doogie kamaeloha’s” family is part AAPI and part white, and showcasing and re-imagining the show to allow this family unit to play out is definitely important in demonstrating how unique these lived experiences are, but at the same time being set in Hawaii, it is about the island connection and how everyone despite their racial background shares the values and spirit of “aloha”.
This is what series creator Kourtney Kang wanted to bring out and she did that by being authentic and telling the story from her own experiences.
Kang: “One of the things about Hawaii is the spirit of ‘aloha’ and feelings of love and warmth. Everyone is connected and love and the sense of community is what bonds all the different characters together.”
“All the different relationship dynamics you see is all based and comes back to my own family dynamic and I wanted to be true to that. A really good story is all about truth and it is only in this way that you can avoid negative racial and cultural stereotypes. I definitely hope this series achieves this in the backdrop of Hawaii island life”.
Finally, to see a young teenage woman of color achieve the heights she has is extremely empowering for the next generation of young girls and women to see themselves represented on the screen in positive and endearing roles. It is something Lee, hopes she has achieved in how she portrayed “Lahela ‘Doogie’ Kamealoha”.
Lee: “For young girls of color watching the series, I hope they can be more comfortable in their own skin and be their own person. That is what “Lahela” aspires to be. Each character in the show looks different, comes from different family dynamics and come with different lived experiences.”
“It is these differences which bonds “Lahela” with all the other characters in the show and encourages her to continue to achieve and overcome obstacles. This is the message I hope is put out from the show.”
Episode 1 of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”, will be released on Disney Plus on Wednesday, September 8.
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