The original Doogie Howser is ready to pass down the stethoscope.
Disney+ last fall announced plans for a gender-swapped, multicultural reboot of ABC’s beloved drama “Doogie Howser, M.D.” Set in present-day Hawaii, the new version is titled “Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.” and stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee as 16-year-old Lahela “Doogie” Kameāloha, who embarks on a medical career while navigating the challenges of high school and teenage life.
As is the case for most remakes and reboots, however, “Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.” will have to endure the scrutiny of purists beholden to the original, which starred Neil Patrick Harris in the title role and aired from 1989 to 1993. As for Harris himself, he’s eager to check out the new version.
“I’m so happy,” the actor told Variety journalist Marc Malkin in Tuesday’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “The creator of it was a big producer on ‘How I Met Your Mother.’”
In addition to creator Kourtney Kang’s involvement, “Doogie Kameāloha, M.D.” has the benefit of a top-notch cast. Lee, 16, played the title role on the Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” and appeared on three episodes of Showtime’s “Shameless.” Actors Jason Scott Lee and Kathleen Rose Perkins will star as Lahela’s parents.
“I think setting it with a female protagonist is a great call,” Harris noted. “I think it’s in really good hands. I feel like it’s a passion project for many, and I can’t wait to watch it.”
The original “Doogie Howser,” of course, put Harris on the Hollywood map. He’s since gone on to a multifaceted career as a television, film and stage performer. He earned four Emmy nominations for playing Barney Stinson on CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother,” which wrapped a nine-season run in 2014, and won a Tony Award for Broadway’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” that same year.
Harris’s current project is “It’s a Sin,” a five-episode series about a group of young gay men living in London at the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that premieres Thursday on HBO Max. He plays Henry Coltrane, who serves as a mentor to Colin Morris-Jones (Callum Scott Howells), a shy man still coming to terms with his sexuality.
Recalling his experience on the “It’s a Sin” set, Harris said he was struck by how “the gay-straight spectrum is totally different” among younger people.
“I’ve had good conversations with people in their early 20s who are straight but have fooled around with friends, and that doesn’t weigh heavily on them,” he said Tuesday. “It was fun. They had fun. And now they have a girlfriend, and they are not troubled by it.”
“It doesn’t define them,” he added. “It was just a fun afternoon or evening. And I love that.”