There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Doogie Kamealoha M.D. The Disney+ series was initially pegged as a soft reboot of the 90s medical series, Doogie Howser M.D. Starring Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Jason Scott Lee and Matthew Sato, the series immediately set itself apart when it debuted.
Like the original series, it revolved around a teenage prodigy juggling a budding medical career and life as a teenager. Set in modern day Hawaii, the core of the story revolves around Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha (Lee). But the supporting cast of characters is also key to the development of her character.
One of the mainstay characters is Kai Kamealoha, Lahela’s older free-spirited brother, with an emotion IQ that’s off the charts. Played by Matthew Sato, the character helps to bring a dynamic to the storyline of Doogie Kamealoha M.D.
For Sato, filming the series was practically a homecoming as the 20-year-old is a native Hawaiian from O’ahu. An actor with Japanese, Hawaiian, Chinese, and Irish roots, Sato has appeared in numerous shows including the hit CBS series, Hawaii Five-0. His acting credentials also includes Nickelodeon’s Side Hustle and Chad on TBS.
He will also star in Patsy Lee & The Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms, a new film produced by the legendary James Hong. A star of many talents, Sato is also equally passionate about being behind the camera, directing multiple music videos and short films. In this interview we discover more about his involvement in Doogie Kamealoha M.D., acting and his future plans.
Congratulations on your role in Doogie Kamealoha M.D. What drew you to the role of ‘Kai’ and can you describe the character in your own words?
Thank you so much! I love this role because he’s so much fun like myself. I am the youngest of five children, so it was super fun to get to be the oldest child in the Kamealoha house! Kai, is the older brother to Peyton Elizabeth Lee’s character Doogie Kamealoha, MD (Lehela aka “Doogie”). He’s a pretty laid back, go with the flow, easy to get along, nice 17-year-old kid.
He’s not worried about impressing others and sometimes is oblivious to what’s going on around him. I’d say he’s your typical teenage guy who enjoys having a good time, helping his dad at home, hanging out at the beach with his friends, tinkering with his moped or charming the local high school girls.
Kai balances out his sister, Lehela as she is known to be the smart one in the family while Kai is of average intelligence just living his best life. He is known to offer Lehela the emotional support she needs to deal with the teenage angst she faces while walking in adult shoes when she’s at work.
Obviously there will be references or opinions on Doogie Kamealoha M.D being a ‘reboot’. How does the series set itself apart from the original Doogie Howser series?
This show is a modern day Doogie, the original was made in the ‘90s and things were different back then from how medicine was practiced to the ways teens interact with one another including on their phones now. This show is more diverse with a female led cast and enriches Hawaiian culture unlike no other!
You’re from Hawaii, so how did it feel filming the series in your own backyard?
It still doesn’t feel real to be shooting in my home state! We even used my old school as crew parking on one of the days! The best part about getting to be home was getting to spend lots of time with family and specifically, fishing with my dad and brother.
I am truly excited for the fans to be able to see the place where I grew up. Hawaii is a melting pot of different cultures brought together over several generations. Kourtney Kang the creator and writer of the show really understands Hawaii and its culture.
She did an amazing job showing everyday life here on the island from the unique languages and lingo that we speak (Hawaiian Pidgin), rituals and cultural habits of living the Aloha way of life, while at the same time still keeping it super relatable to audiences of young and old, wherever they may live.
How would you describe the atmosphere on-set with the cast?
Due to the pandemic, it was necessary to keep us in somewhat of a production bubble both on and off set as to prevent the risk any one of us catching COVID-19. Because of this, we did everything together. This caused us to bond and get to know each other rather quickly.
Within a week we were so comfortable with each other we were pulling pranks, cracking jokes and felt like we knew each other forever. We were like one big Ohana (family). Most of us stayed at the same hotel in the beginning so it felt like I was away participating in a super cool summer camp. A few months in Hawaii with a bunch of brilliant people you’ve never met before, creating this wonderful project together, life could not be better than this.
We know that you’re also in Patsy Lee & The Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms. Can you reveal what the production is about and also the character you’re playing?
It’s a family adventure film about Patsy Lee and her grandfather and her team of misfits getting transported to a mystical land through a portal and finding their way back to reality. Hopper the character I play is a cool but sometimes awkward teenage boy. He’s a “grease monkey” who loves working on cars at his dad’s garage.
He is super protective of his little sister, and he crushes on her sister’s friend, Patsy. I think the audience is going to love this movie; it has a real 80’s/90’s vibe about it however with many modern-day conveniences.
What drew you to this role?
Actually, I learned of this role through a friend who recommended that I audition for it as they thought I could pull off the character well . After I read the script, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Plus, it was a feature film, at that point in time I was waiting for that kind of opportunity. When I met Zack Ward (A Christmas Story) the director, he was super cool, he told me all about the film and from there I was in!
The film was written by the legendary James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) one of the first Asian actors to have made it big in Hollywood. His screen credits are a mile long. I was excited to have been casted in a supporting role working with such well respected talent.
If you were given an option to choose. What would be your dream role and why do you think you can pull it off?
My dream role is to play a Superhero! I have a dance background so I’m always dying to do stunt Martial arts work. Growing up, my dad took my brother and I see to all the Avengers films. My favourite Avenger has always been the Hulk. So here’s to me being a future Avenger!
Catch Matthew Sato on Doogie Kamealoha M.D. exclusively on Disney+
(Photos by Storm Santos)