Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer who co-hosted the pop science show “MythBusters” on the Discovery Channel and operated robots in the “Star Wars” prequels and other major Hollywood films, has died. He was 49.
Imahara’s death was confirmed by Discovery Communications on Monday night. A company spokeswoman said the cause was believed to be a brain aneurysm and that Imahara, who lived in Los Angeles, was thought to have died hours earlier. No other details were immediately available.
“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Grant,” Discovery said in a statement. “He was an important part of our Discovery family and a really wonderful man. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Imahara was born in Los Angeles and graduated in 1993 with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, according to his Facebook page and a brief biography on the Discovery website.
He later worked as an animatronics engineer and model-maker for Industrial Light & Magic, a designer of movie special effects that was founded by George Lucas in 1975. In a brief biography on the movie site IMDB, Imahara is described as an “electronics wizard” who worked “behind the scenes of many top Hollywood films for years.”
Imahara operated R2-D2 in the “Star Wars” prequels. He also worked on “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” Steven Spielberg’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and the “Matrix” sequels, among other films, and developed a custom circuit for the Energizer Bunny’s arms and ears.
He also built a machine that became a champion on “BattleBots,” a robot fighting show that ran on Comedy Central from 2000-02. A year after the show ended, he published a book, “Kickin’ Bot: An Illustrated Guide to Building Combat Robots.”
Imahara worked on “MythBusters” from 2005-14, initially as a member of its “build team.”
Asked in a 2008 interview with the website MachineDesign what a typical day on the show looked like, Imahara replied that there was no such thing.
“We could be jumping out of planes, learning to swing on a trapeze, swimming with sharks, and the list goes on and on,” he said. “We usually find out what we’re doing for the week on Monday morning.”
In a 2006 article about “MythBusters,” The New York Times science writer John Schwartz wrote that the show’s cast specialized in “banging stuff together” and “setting stuff on fire.”
“Their delight in discovery for its own sake is familiar to most scientists, who welcome any result because it either confirms or debunks a hypothesis,” he wrote. “That sense of things can be corrupted when grants or licensing deals are on the line. But the Mythbusters get paid whether their experiments succeed or fail.”
Along with his former “MythBusters” co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci, Imahara later co-hosted “White Rabbit Project,” a show on Netflix that looked back on history’s greatest inventions and heists. It ran for one season in 2016.
In 2018, he wrote on Twitter that he had spent the previous year working on a Walt Disney Imagineering project to create autonomous robot stunt doubles. As of Monday, his Facebook page said he was still working as a Disney consultant.
The page said he had also been working as a mechanical designer for Spectral Motion, a California-based company that specializes in animatronics, action props and prosthetic makeup effects.
In March, as the coronavirus began to rip through the United States, Imahara posted a picture on Twitter of a table in his home that was littered with papers, a magnifying glass, a laptop and a jumble of other electronics gear.
“Show me your WFH space!” he wrote in a post that ended with a smiley face emoji. “Here’s mine: a bunch of electronics equipment on a foldout table.”