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Young Chicago actor gets dream role in ‘Doogie Howser’ reboot

Twelve-year-old Wes Tian finds Disney+ role on “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Chicago actor Wes Tian co-stars in the new Disney+ series “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”
Chicago actor Wes Tian co-stars in the new Disney+ series “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”
Disney+

Nearly 28 years have passed since the emotional final episode of the TV series “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” an episode that famously showed the teen prodigy doctor (played by a youthful Neil Patrick Harris) give his notice at the fictional Eastman Medical Center to embark on a trip to Europe.

It’s an episode that Wes Tian certainly hopes to catch up with sometime soon.

“I’m actually in the middle of Season 2 [of ‘Doogie Howser, M.D.’] right now,” laughs the Chicago-based actor who recently landed a role on the Disney+ original series “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” The coming-of-age dramedy was inspired by the original “Doogie” that ran on ABC from 1989 to 1993. “My parents have always talked about the show, but I have never seen it until now.”

That’s because Tian was born in 2009.

“Once I got the callback about this new show, I started watching the old show,” he exclaims. “It’s so good!”

Indeed, 12 years old, Tian finds himself playing the role of Brian Patrick Kamealoha, young brother to Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha, a 16-year-old prodigy (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) trying her best to juggle a budding medical career with life as a teenager.

“I love that he has such a bond with his older sister,” Tian says of the comedic character he plays on the show, set to begin streaming Sept. 8. “He looks up to her, but they don’t really get to see each other too much because he’s back at home with the family and she’s saving lives in the hospital.”

It’s an incredible storyline, but so too is the story that got Tian to where he is today.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to direct something,” says Tian, whose passion for the craft led him to create a multitude of his own short films through the years, including the award-winning short “A Day in Pete’s Shoes” (2017-18). “I’ve always loved making movies with my friends.”

Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Tian spent much of the pandemic-stricken year of 2020 auditioning for various roles. And last February, he got a callback from Disney.

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (from left), Peyton Elizabeth Lee and Mapuana Makia are shown in episode one of Season 1 of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” a new Disney= coming-of-age dramedy inspired by the hit medical series “Doogie Howser, M.D.”
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (from left), Peyton Elizabeth Lee and Mapuana Makia are shown in episode one of Season 1 of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” a new Disney+ coming-of-age dramedy inspired by the hit medical series “Doogie Howser, M.D.”
Disney+

“The next thing I knew, I was going to Hawaii,” Tian says of the picturesque setting in which “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.” was filmed. “It was crazy. It all happened so fast.”

Smack dab in the middle of yet another brutal Chicago winter, Tian and his family found themselves flying to Hawaii for an extended stay in one of the world’s most amazing places with a bunch of actors and actresses that the youngster had never met. But strong bonds were quickly forged.

“I think because of the COVID and everything happening, it was just sort of us in this tiny little bubble,” says Tian. “And so, we could just see each other, talk to each other and eventually it just formed into this really authentic bond. It really felt like a family.”

For five months, Tian found himself filming a show he dreamed of being on, playing “a super adventurous character” in one of this season’s most anticipated new shows.

“The house in which we filmed many of the scenes for the show had an amazing view,” remembers Tian. “The backyard connected to the beach, and you could just see a blue, turquoise ocean and there were mountains in the distance and the sand was so smooth. Everything was so beautiful.”

The job also gave Tian the chance to witness firsthand the ins and outs of what it really takes to become a big-time director.

“It was really awesome to me that I got to be on an actual professional production,” he says of the show. “I definitely got to see what a professional director does and the work they can do. Because when it all comes together, it’s spectacular.”

And while Tian looks forward to getting started on his next project, he’s currently getting back in the swing of school back in Illinois, trying his best to find a balance between his personal and professional life.

“Let’s just say I have really accommodating teachers,” he says.

Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.