Matthew Sato is currently starring in Disney + series Doogie Kamealoha M.D. He portrays Lahela’s older free-spirited brother, Kai, who has a high emotional IQ. Matthew was originally from Hawaii and loved returning to film the series.
His acting career was jump-started by appearing in CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 leading him to star in “Chicken Girls” with Hayley and Jules LeBlanc, Nickelodeon’s Side Hustle, and TBS’ Chad. He also is a singer and songwriter, and his music videos are on YouTube.
TV Fanatic talked to Matthew about filming in Hawaii, building the brother and sister relationship with Lahela, and how Kai differs from his family.
Hi Matthew. So let’s start at the beginning. How did you become interested in acting?
I've always been interested in acting ever since I can remember. My parents used to take us to the movies once a week, and I was always just obsessed with that, and I knew I wanted to be a part of TV and film.
For several years I begged my mom to sign me up for acting classes, but because I was playing sports, she would always say no, as she thought I had too much on my plate. Finally, she agreed, and she said if I'd just play one more season of baseball, she’d enroll me in some acting classes.
I made her keep her promise, and she took me to the acting class, and I fell in love. It was a musical theater class, but I loved it. I started doing that, and then years later, I moved to LA to take more advanced acting classes, get an agent with the dream of eventually working in TV and film.
That’s great. So how familiar were you with the original Doogie Howser?
I’d heard of it before but was not familiar with it. I remember when I first started acting, my mom used to always say, “You'd make a good "Doogie" if they ever did a Doogie Howser reboot. Then years later, I book the role of Kai in the reboot.
I am not 16 anymore, so I can’t be a sixteen-year-old doctor, but I can be the older brother to Doogie, which is the closest I think I could get to that role. Once I knew I was up for the role, I did put in some time watching episodes of the original Doogie Howser, MD.
How do you think Disney’s re-imagination differs from the original?
Honestly, super different. We took the foundation of the original show and just built a new house over it. So it’s a whole new show. You will see, especially in our pilot, some similarities to the original show, but it’s just our own twist.
First, it's female-led now, which makes all the dynamics so much different from the original series. It’s also Hawaii-based. So, the entire show centers around Hawaii and its culture as it relates to Lahela's life and career.
So you’re a Hawaii native. What has it been like filming the series there?
It was a dream come true. Honestly, I still can’t believe that I was lucky enough to be a part of it. I moved to LA years ago and I would have never thought that I’d be able to go home and work and see my parents. I get to represent my home and my culture.
And what have been some of your favorite places to show your castmates?
I mean, just shooting on location. There were so many spots that I remember shooting at this beach, where we used to have a diving tournament every year growing up, and I remember coming here all the time, and I haven’t seen it in a long time.
There were just so many places that just brought me back to my childhood shooting there. I could show the cast my favorite hikes, beaches, and the coolest places to see the sunsets. The entire cast had fun. I was kind of the tour guide since I was local.
That had to be fun. What has been your favorite part about playing Kai?
My favorite part about playing Kai is his relationship with his sister. It’s been really fun to develop Kai’s relationship with Lahela because they balance each other out.
In some areas, she’s obviously a lot smarter with the book stuff and the doctor stuff, but there are some things that Kai offers with being a teenager and how to finesse their parents, like manipulating them into getting more allowance money.
Yes, those have been some of my favorite scenes when he came to her rescue when she wrecked the car.
That was one of my favorite scenes to shoot.
I was going to say, I really like your interactions with your family, especially your sister, but I like your interactions with your parents, too.
We have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of stuff when Lahela is out doing doctor stuff or hanging out with Steph. There’s another storyline happening with me and my brother and my family.
What do you think entices Kai to want to be a farmer instead of going to college? I really liked that too.
First, Kai doesn’t care about going with what everyone else is doing. And if everyone’s going off to college and saying that’s how they need to do it, he doesn’t really care. Whatever makes him happy, that’s what he is going to go into.
On top of that, there’s also a bit of him not wanting to go anywhere near the same direction as his sister and her whole thing. He wants to have his own "thing” -- That’s the farming community and what he’s good at. That’s not related to his sister at all.
That makes sense. I’m wondering if you can give us a hint on when we will see Kai date, especially with Steph, because it’s so obvious she has a crush on him.
Aww, Steph. You will definitely see Kai’s relationship status expand.
So, we’ll see something at some point. That is good to know. So you’re also a singer and a songwriter. Will we see any of your material played on the series?
No, not in the series, but you can find my music and videos on YouTube.
That is good. I just wondered if they were going to make use of both of your talents.
We have another cast member in our show. His name is Alex Aiono (Walter), and he sings. Working together on the show, we have become good friends. He’s just an extremely talented musician.
He does some music in the show. I think people are going to really enjoy watching and hearing him sing.
So, do you have any other projects you’re working on?
Yes, I will be in the next season of Saved by the Bell. I play Gil, the new kid at Bayside.
That is exciting, especially since I heard the promo for that just hit.
Yes. They just released the trailer yesterday. You’ll see me...for a split second.
You can catch Matthew in Doogie Kameāloha, M.D., streaming now on Disney +.
Laura Nowak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.