Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer best known as part of the build team on the long-running Discovery series MythBusters, died Monday, the New York Times reports. He was 49.
A spokesperson for Discovery confirmed Imahara’s death, with the cause believed to be a brain aneurysm. No other details were available.
On social media, Imahara’s MythBusters colleagues paid tribute to him. Adam Savage, one of the show’s co-hosts, wrote: “I’m at a loss. No words. I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years. Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing and gentle person. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.”
Kari Byron and Tory Belleci — who were part of the MythBusters build team with Imahara and starred alongside him in their own Netflix show, White Rabbit Project — also shared remembrances. Byron posted a series of photos of Imahara, writing: “Heartbroken and in shock tonight. We were just talking on the phone. This isn’t real.”
Belleci said: “I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is broken. Goodbye buddy.”
Imahara was born in Los Angeles and studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California. He launched his career in the entertainment industry, scoring work as an animatronics engineer and model maker at Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects studio founded by George Lucas in 1975. He operated R2-D2 in the Star Wars prequels and worked on films like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Matrix sequels. In the late Nineties, Imahara also participated in the robot fighting show, BattleBots, constructing a combat robot named Deadblow that ranked number two in the middleweight category.
In 2005, Imahara joined MythBusters, which had launched a few years prior. Savage and his co-host Jamie Hyneman helmed the show, while Imahara joined Byron and Belleci on the build team, which typically did experiments separate from Savage and Hyneman. As the show’s title suggests, MythBusters was dedicated to using science and special effects techniques to test the veracity of various myths, from urban legends to movie stunts. Some examples included: Whether a salami could be used to propel a hybrid rocket, whether yodeling could set off an avalanche and whether a tissue box in a car could become a deadly projectile during an auto accident.
Imahara appeared on MythBusters for about 10 years before departing the show in 2014 alongside Byron and Belleci. In 2016, the trio scored their own Netflix series, White Rabbit Project, which ran for one season. In the show, Imahara, Byron and Belleci investigated an array of topics, from famous inventions to prison breaks to heists.
Following White Rabbit Project, Imahara returned to the special effects world. In 2018, he revealed on Twitter that he’d been part of a Walt Disney Imagineering project to create fully functioning, autonomous robot stunt doubles.
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