Peyton Elizabeth Lee is Disney’s “it” girl. The actress stars in the delightfully sharp Disney+ movie Prom Pact and returns as Lahela in the second season of Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. season 2. Peyton rose to fame in the critically acclaimed Disney Channel series Andi Mack and is now making her mark on and off the screen. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with the actress about her exciting new roles and her first experience as a co-producer.
Peyton plays Mandy Yang in Prom Pact. Mandy is determined to get into Harvard. When she’s put on the waitlist, she decides to go to the one person who represents everything she’s against for help. That person is all-star jock Graham Lansing (Blake Draper), whose father is a senator and Harvard alum.
It’s also prom season. Mandy and her best friend Ben, played by Milo Manheim, are surrounded by over-the-top prom-posals that would make ’80s teen movies proud. There’s definitely some Pretty In Pink energy in Prom Pact, especially with the dynamics Mandy has with Ben and Graham. But there’s no love triangle drama. Mandy and Ben are strictly best friends. For Peyton, she was very protective of Mandy and Ben’s relationship.
“I think one of the things I loved so much about the script when I first read it was the Mandy and Ben relationship, and the fact that it shows a very strong, great, platonic friendship between a boy and a girl,” Peyton said. “It’s just not true, in my opinion, that boys and girls can’t be just friends. I have that relationship with so many of my friends, so it was very nice to see because I think it is a true reflection of real life. I think if they had gotten together at the end it would have been forced, and it wouldn’t have done justice to their characters or their relationship at this point in their lives. I was really happy to see that the script didn’t lean into that trope.”
The actress noted that “Prom Pact does a really good job of displaying love in all of its various facets. I think that’s so special and so reflective of life. It was really cool to explore those various routes that love can manifest as.”
The end of Prom Pact picks up months down the road when Mandy is at Harvard. She crosses paths with Graham again, who has decided to chart his own path and take a gap year. Paying homage to the classic ’80s teen movies, Mandy and Graham have that epic foot-popping reunion kiss.
“I think that scene is so fun. I remember reading it for the first and being so excited that you do get that happily ever after moment that I think everyone wants to see when they’re watching a movie,” Peyton told HollywoodLife. “I think the ending is very telling of the message of the film as a whole in that you can have both. You can work really hard and accomplish your dreams and get to where you want to go and that doesn’t mean that you have to neglect the other side of life. You can have love and enjoy the experience that is living. I think getting to see Mandy at the end of the movie achieving both of those things and getting both of those things is very important for young people to see they can have it all and deserve it all.”
Prom Pact also marked Peyton’s first time being a producer. The 18-year-old wants to continue exploring behind-the-camera opportunities in the future. “Directing is my dream,” she said. “That’s really what I want to do, but producing for sure. I’ll always love acting and I’ll always continue to pursue that as well. I’ll keep doing it as long as they’ll let me.”
Peyton also reprises her role as Lahela in Doogie Kameāloha, M.D. season 2, which premiered on March 31. In the second season, Milo joins Peyton as Nico, one of Lahela’s patients.
“The dynamics are very different,” Peyton said about her and Milo’s onscreen relationships. “It was fun because Milo and I developed such a strong friendship shooting Prom Pact, and then he followed me to Hawaii,” Peyton said. “We got to develop a very different kind of relationship because in Prom Pact it’s very much platonic chemistry. Doogie is kind of the opposite. They have this undeniable romantic chemistry, so getting to lean into that aspect of things with him was super fun, too.”
Nico is battling cancer, and Lahela goes to great lengths to save him while also falling in love. By the end of the season, she does find a way to help him in his fight against cancer, which is a personal and professional victory for Lahela.
“I think season 2 is so special because, even more than season 1, we see Lahela work hard and be really successful in both her life and work world,” Peyton told HollywoodLife. “It’s really exciting to get to tell this very truthful, authentic story, but then have a happily ever after kind of moment, which I think we can all use more of right now.”
At the end of season 2, Lahela finds herself torn between Nico and Walter. Instead of choosing between them, Lahela chooses herself and heads out on the open road in her mobile clinic.
“It’s really important to have strong female characters at the center of our story that aren’t purely driven by men, boys, or whatever. It was very important to us to show young girls watching this show that they should be choosing themselves,” the actress stressed. “What really is important at the end of the day is staying true to yourself and not letting anything or anyone get in the way of that. I was really excited that that was the direction we went in at the end of the season because I think it opens the show up to a lot of possibilities. She’s not saying no to either of them or both of them. She’s just saying yes to herself. I think that’s a very empowering message and important for us to see on TV.”
But we have to talk about that epic Beauty and the Beast musical moment between Lahela and Nico, gold dress and all. “I talked to Kourtney Kang, our creator and writer, a lot about her vision for it and what was behind it and sort of understanding why we were doing it,” Peyton explained. “I think that gave me a lot of confidence. I think the great thing about Doogie and what is particularly interesting to me about Lahela as a character is the fact that she is so grown up, so mature, so adult, but at the end of the day she is a teenage girl. We all have those big fantasies about what life could look like, what love could look like and feel like and be like. I think that musical moment kind of encapsulates that teenage dream of what it feels like to be falling in love.”
When asked about a possible third season of Doogie Kameāloha, M.D., Peyton revealed that she would like to explore the “dynamic of growing into the next stage of your life and recognizing adulthood as part of who you are and how that affects dynamics with your family.” She added, “We see a little bit of it in season 1 and season 2 but I would like to see more of that, figuring out what your relationship looks like with your mom and your dad, respecting them, appreciating their opinion, and loving them for everything they’ve done for you and also being able to say this is my life and it’s my turn to go out into the world and see what it’s like. I would like to see that in a potential season 3.”
On top of her new movie and the return of her show, Peyton is also finishing up her first year at Columbia University, where she is studying philosophy. “I think my whole life I’ve known I wanted to go to college,” Peyton explained. “I’ve always been a fan of learning and knowing things that you wouldn’t otherwise know. I knew that when I graduated high school I wasn’t done with that journey. It’s always been very important to my parents that I have an academic experience, and it’s also been important to me to have that as well. I think grounding my life in some traditional experience is very important. I’ve had a very non-traditional upbringing working and doing school on set, online, and on Zoom during COVID, so I think it was definitely that I always knew I wanted to experience in some capacity.”
When Peyton has a goal, she accomplishes it. The actress is an inspiring young woman both onscreen and off — and it’s clear she’s ready to take on whatever life throws her way. Peyton’s leaving a permanent mark on her world, and it’s going to be exciting to see what she decides to do next.