Grant Imahara, ‘MythBusters’ Alum and ‘BattleBots’ Judge, Dies at 49

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Grant Imahara was honored as a distinguished alumnus in April 2008 by the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association. (Rafu file photo)

Rafu Staff Report

The Discovery Channel made the following announcement about former “MythBusters” host Grant Masaru Imahara, who died suddenly at the age of 49, apparently of a brain aneurysm, on July 13:

“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.

“Grant Imahara was an electrical engineer who dedicated his life to using his skills to make people smile. Beyond his time with the Discovery family, Grant was one of the few officially trained operators for famed droid R2-D2 within the ‘Star Wars’ universe, he also engineered the Energizer Bunny’s iconic rhythmic beat.

“Grant was part of the ‘MythBusters’ team for 10 years, where his dedication to his craft and his ability to bust myths with the best of them brought tech to life for his fans. Some of his partners in Mythbusting sent out their condolences.”

Adam Savage 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.”

“White Rabbit Project” on Netflix featured Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci ranking history’s greatest inventions.

Kari Byron tweeted photos of herself with Imahara and Tory Belleci. “Heartbroken and in shock tonight. We were just talking on the phone. This isn’t real,” she wrote.

Belleci tweeted, “I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is broken. Goodbye, buddy.”

Imahara starred in the 2016 Netflix series “White Rabbit Project” along with Byron and Belleci. The series looked back on history’s greatest inventions and heists.

“Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Grant was a fierce ‘BattleBots’ competitor and winner,” Discovery said. “This made him more than qualified to be a member of the judges panel just last year.

“We will miss Grant and his enthusiasm for all things engineering.”

The statement was followed by a video commemorating Imahara’s time with “MythBusters.” He appeared in 208 episodes from 2005 to 2018.

An Australian-American science entertainment program, “MythBusters” premiered in 2003 and aired 296 episodes. Filming in the San Francisco Bay Area and New South Wales, the hosts used elements of the scientific method to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos, and news stories.

One example was an episode of the original “Star Trek” in which Capt. Kirk, stranded on an uninhabited planet, constructed a cannon out of natural materials and used it against his alien foe. Imahara and his fellow MythBusters built their own bamboo cannon and concluded that the resulting explosion would have killed Kirk as well as his opponent.

Grant Imahara’s engineering skills were put to the test on “MythBusters.” He recently built an animatronic Baby Yoda to cheer up sick kids.

Born in Los Angeles, Imahara earned a degree in electrical engineering at USC in 1993. His career in the entertainment industry started as an animatronics engineer and model maker at George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic. He operated the droid R2-D2 in the three “Star Wars” prequels (“The Phantom Menace” in 1999, “Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and “Revenge of the Sith” in 2005) and also worked on “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997), “Galaxy Quest” (1999), “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” (2001), “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003), “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003) and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003).

While working at ILM, Imahara wore the official C-3PO suit at various press functions over the course of nine years, including an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, an L.A. Lakers event, and Mitsubishi ads in Japan.

Also during this time, he was on a team that rebuilt the Energizer Bunny used in commercials. Each bunny required three operators; Imahara began as the arms man and moved up to become the driver.

As a participant in “BattleBots” in 2000, Imahara constructed a combat robot called Deadblow that ranked No. 2 in the middleweight category. He returned to the show as a judge in 2018 and authored a book, “Kickin’ Bot: An Illustrated Guide to Building Combat Robots.”

As an actor, Imahara played Sulu — the role originated by George Takei — in 11 episodes of the online series “Star Trek Continues,” one of a number of fan-produced series that were not officially sanctioned. This show picked up where the original (1966-69) left off, with new actors playing the iconic characters.

“We have lost a family member, a brother, and one of the kindest men we’ve ever known,” said the cast and crew of “Star Trek Continues” in a statement. “The loss of Grant Imahara is devastating to all who knew him. Godspeed, Mr. Sulu. You are loved and deeply missed.”

Imahara played a different character, Lt. Masaru, in another fan production, “Star Trek: Renegades.”

Grant Imahara (right) as Sulu in a 2017 cast photo of “Star Trek Continues.” The online fan-produced series picked up where the original “Star Trek” left off.

His other TV acting credits include “The League of S.T.E.A.M.,” “Eureka,” “Team Unicorn,” “Shelf Life,” “Caper,” “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” and “Drunk History.” He was also a presenter and recipient on “The Geekie Awards” and a panelist in “Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Live Pre-Show.”

In 2010, for “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” on CBS, Imahara created Geoff Peterson, the host’s robot skeleton sidekick, and also appeared on the show as a guest. Ferguson was delighted with the robot and kept it after his tenure as host ended.

On Jan. 31, Imahara, who was doing work for Disney, tweeted, “Finally the project I worked on will be making its way to Disney California Adventure!! You’re going to see something you’ve never seen before in a @Disney park: NO STRINGS.”

The day before, Disney Parks tweeted, “Spider-Man will soon swing into action above Avengers Campus opening this summer at Disney California Adventure park at @Disneyland!”

On Imahara’s Facebook page, a video posted in March shows how he and others created an animatronic Baby Yoda, a character from the “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian.” The lifelike robot is being used to cheer up sick kids.

“Happy #MayTheFourth from me and #BabyYoda!” he tweeted on May 4. “I was lucky enough to work at @Lucasfilm_Ltd and @ILMVFX on #StarWars projects from 1993-2005. I look back on those years fondly and look forward to their plans for the future of the franchise.”

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