Jeffrey Bowyer Chapman is widely known for his roles as iconic queer men in film and television, most notably as ambitious producer Jay in the Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated Lifetime/Hulu series UNREAL.

He is currently starring in the Disney+ series Doogie Kameāloha, M.D, a reboot of the DOOGIE HOWSER series. Bowyer-Chapman portrays Charles, a Midwest transplant to Hawaii, a fellow resident at the hospital, and a positive Black gay role model for the community.

It is through his non-Islander character that we learn about the Hawaiian culture.

Hey, Jeffrey. I got to see a few episodes of the show. I’m really enjoying it. So before they cast you, did you watch the original Doogie Howser show?

I loved it. As a kid, I grew up watching it. It was a staple in my household. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Neil Patrick Harris. He was one of my first heroes in the LGBTQ community that was open in this industry. So the fact that he’s been such a staple in my life.

Now, I have the honor of stepping into a world that he originally inhabited. It’s just such a pleasure and a blessing.

What specifically enticed you to play the role of Charles?

So much of my choices about what projects I sign on to play have to do with the powers-that-be behind the scenes. Who the showrunners are, who the writers are, and who the producers and directors are.

Kourtney Kang is the writer, creator, and showrunner of Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. She’s somebody who I’ve known personally for years, never on a professional level, just always as Kourtney, and she’s just such a kind and vivacious person.

When they brought the script to me and asked me to be a part of the project, I immediately jumped at it. We were right in the middle of covid. It was a really dark time in our human history and to be presented was just such a positive, uplifting, fun project like this. It just was such an unexpected gift.

I see. And how do you think the part of Charles differs from your other roles, especially from UNREAL?

Well, it’s not only the character but the project that’s so incredibly different from anything that I’ve ever been a part of before. I’ve mainly been focused on and worked on much more adult projects, much more traumatic projects like psychological thrillers or horror projects.

So being a part of something that’s light-hearted and family-friendly like a Disney plus series was something that was completely foreign to me. Playing a character like Charles, who’s so open-hearted and optimistic and wide-eyed, was new for me.

The only point of reference that I had was to tap into the 18-year-old version of myself when I first left home in my small town in Canada and ventured out into the world.

I began modeling and was living in major cities all over the world, and everything was new and impactful for the first time for me. So I felt like I had to tap into that side of myself in order to bring Charles to life.

It seems through your character that we’re learning a lot about the Hawaiian culture. What was one thing about Hawaii that amazed you?

There was so much about Hawaii that amazed me. The thing is, as a queer person, what was really most impactful was the reverence and respect for transgender people.

The word for transgender and in native Hawaiian is Mahu, and Mahu People for centuries have been held in such high regard and have been seen very much in the same way that First Nations people in Canada where I grew up.

They view transgender people as being too spirited and having access to both feminine and masculine energy, and nature, and perspective. They offer a higher perspective than those of us, who only identify with one gender orientation.

They bring a history of artistry, MAHU people being the hula teachers and spiritual leaders and healers, and it was so special. I think that’s a history that few people are aware of, and I think that one that could offer a lot of insights to those on the mainland who are really struggling to understand gender identity and sexual orientation.

I think that it really just puts things in perspective that this is something that’s not new. It’s something that is completely natural. It’s a biological predisposition that has existed for as long as humans have been on the planet. It’s a gift and a blessing, nothing to be feared but something to hold in high esteem as those of native Hawaiian lineage do.

I know you’re an activist for the gay community. Do you think the show portrays experiences realistically?

Regarding the LGBTQ experience, they do as much as possible on a family-friendly Disney plus series. I mean, the show is very much focused on the title character, Doogie, who identifies as cisgender and heterosexual. So from her perspective, there’s only so much that could really be explored in terms of the LGBTQ experience.

My character is the only series regular on the show who identifies as queer. You really only get his lived experience. And so much of Charles’s experiences explored on film really have nothing to do with his sexuality. It just has everything to do with who he is as a human being.

So in that respect, yes, because so much of who I am as a human being has nothing to do with my sexual orientation. It’s just who I am, and I navigate my way through the world.

I think they show there’s a three-dimensional individual existing in the world and explore his relationships and dynamics with his co-workers and colleagues in a way that has nothing to do with sexuality.

It's the same way that I would operate and navigate my way through the world with my co-workers and colleagues that has nothing to do with my sexuality.

Will we see more character stories as the series goes on?

Absolutely. It’s an ensemble show, and there are ten of us. The show is focused on Lahela’s story. As the show goes on, we will get a closer look at each of the character’s backstories.

It seems that you and Lahela have formed a friendship. What has it been like playing that dynamic, considering that she’s younger and sort of in charge?

Peyton Elizabeth Lee, who plays Doogie, and I very much played off of our natural dynamic. I have such incredible respect for Peyton. She’s a veteran in this industry. She’s been working in a TV series for the past 10 years.

So she has the expertise, a groundedness, and maturity to her that is like no other sixteen-year-old that I’ve ever met before. So I just had that natural respect.

But at the same time, she’s 16. So she only has so much actual life experience with love or dynamics with coworkers. We just played off of our natural dynamic with one another, me having the respect for a 16-year-old who is far beyond her years while still being an ear and a shoulder for her to lean on in times of confusion.

That makes sense. And I know this is a reboot, but will we see any Easter eggs in this new series?

I think for anyone who’s familiar with the original series, you’re going to be finding Easter eggs every episode if you pay close enough attention.

Okay. Well, that will be fun for the fans. What have been some of your favorite parts of the series so far?

While watching it, my favorite part has been not knowing what to expect. The writers were just so incredibly talented in this show that for each scene that we shot, they would also provide us with a list of alternative jokes.

We would go through and shoot the scene two or three times with the original scripted version but would try out five or six different alternate jokes to see what would land.

When I’m watching the show now, I do not know what the writers have kept and what they have chosen to hit the cutting room floor.

So I’m watching not only my scenes but everyone else’s scenes as if it’s a brand-new show because so many of the old jokes ultimately made the cut. It’s so much fun. It’s like a choose your own adventure type show from my perspective.

That is interesting. Tell us what it was like filming on the island of Hawaii.

January 2021 is when we arrived. Because the travel restrictions were still so much in place, locals inhabited most of the Island.

Being there for the first time beyond traveling as a tourist for a week, we were there for four and a half months–it allowed you to dive into the lived experiences of the locals and respect of the land and ancestry and family and world history. It was so special.

It’s technically a part of the United States, but it feels like an entirely different world. The respect people have for one another is unquestioned, and it’s just so much a part of what it is to be Hawaiian.

It was so clear when I left Los Angeles in January there were about over 40,000 cases of covid a day. And when I arrived in Hawaii, there were less than a hundred cases a day on all the islands because people did the right thing and washed their hands and wore masks and social distanced.

Nobody questioned it because they knew it wasn’t just about themselves. It’s so much bigger than that. Intergenerational families living together are so common in Hawaii. People in their 20s had the option to go out partying and be together or not wear masks and put themselves at risk of covid.

It just wasn’t something that was common because they knew they had to go home to their families where their grandparents were living, and anything would put them directly at risk.

Seeing that level of mutual respect across generations and across sexual orientations was so refreshing. I think that people on the mainland of the United States will absolutely love the scenes.

That is amazing, and it’s so pretty to see Hawaii and episodes. It’s gorgeous. So, do you have anything else you would like to add?

I hope in the same way that my family would gather around the television every Sunday night to watch Disney Original Movies, and whatever night we all watched the original Doogie, I hope families do the same. In this age of streaming, where all episodes of shows are dropped all at once, people sit around and binge them.

Disney plus has gone down a different path and is dropping each episode week by week. So I really hope that it kind of inspires people to rediscover what it is to bring families together around the television.

Enjoy something that’s really wholesome and that holds a really strong moral lesson in each episode and something that generations of people can enjoy together and have that opportunity to connect with your family in a way that’s been lost in this generation.

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D, drops on Wednesdays on Disney Plus.



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