Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer and roboticist who hosted the popular science show MythBusters and Netflix’s White Rabbit Project, has died. He was 49.
Imahara died suddenly following a brain aneurysm, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. “We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant. He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,” a representative for Discovery said in a statement Monday.
An electrical engineer and roboticist by training, he joined Discovery’s MythBusters in its third season, replacing Scottie Chapman, and was with the show until 2014 when he left with co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. The trio would reunite in 2016 for Netflix’s White Rabbit Project, which lasted for one season. On MythBusters, Imahara used his technical expertise to design and build robots and also operated the computers and electronics needed to test myths.
While as part of the MythBusters team he sky-dived and drove stunt cars, on film sets he came into contact with some of the most iconic characters in screen history, installing lights onto Star Wars‘ R2-D2, creating the robot Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and working on the Energizer Bunny.
On Monday evening, Imahara’s MythBusters and White Rabbit Project co-host Byron tweeted, “Sometimes I wish I had a time machine,” and included a picture with Imahara and Belleci.
Later on Monday, MythBusters co-host Adam Savage also tweeted: “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.”
Born in Los Angeles on Oct. 23, 1970, Imahara studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California (though he briefly had doubts and wanted to become a screenwriter) before combining the two passions and landing a post-graduation gig at Lucasfilm-associated THX labs.
In his nine years at Lucasfilm, he worked for the company’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions. In his years at ILM, he became chief model maker specializing in animatronics and worked on George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, as well as The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Galaxy Quest, XXX: State of the Union, Van Helsing, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
In 2000, Imahara also competed in Comedy Central’s BattleBots with a robot he built himself called “Deadblow” that won two Middleweight Rumbles, was the first season’s Middleweight runner-up and became the third season’s first-ranked robot.
As computer graphics began to supplant model-making in the aughts, former ILM colleague Belleci suggested Imahara come aboard MythBusters, the Discovery show that Belleci co-hosted. As a co-host, he became a self-described “human guinea pig,” though if they determined a situation unfit for humans, they created machines to test them in their place.
Imahara also starred in several episodes of the fan-made web series Star Trek Continues. He played Hikaru Sulu, a lieutenant, helmsman and third officer on the USS Enterprise, in the show that was an unofficial continuation of Star Trek: The Original Series.
In a 2008 interview with Machine Design, Imahara told the publication that he wanted to be an engineer because “I liked the challenge of designing and building things, figuring out how something works and how to make it better or apply it in a different way. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be James Bond. I wanted to be Q, because he was the guy who made all the gadgets. I guess you could say that engineering came naturally.”
Lesley Goldberg contributed to this report.