Grant Imahara, an electrical engineer and roboticist best known as part of the long-running Discovery series MythBusters, died Monday. He was 49 years old.
A spokesperson for Discovery confirmed Imahara’s sudden death. The cause is believed to be a brain aneurysm, but no other details are available at this time.
“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,” the Discovery rep said in a statement on Monday.
Imahara was born in Los Angeles, and studied electrical engineering at the University of Southern California.
He first launched his career in the entertainment industry working as an animatronics engineer and model maker at Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects studio founded by George Lucas in 1975.
His work appeared in well-known sci-fi films, including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Matrix sequels, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and even the Star Wars prequels. Imahara was actually one of the few people in the world qualified to operate R2-D2.
During a 2008 interview with Machine Design, Imahara discussed wanting to become an engineer, saying, “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.”
He continued, “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.”
You may have also seen him in Comedy Central’s robot fighting show BattleBots back in the late 90s. He constructed a combat robot named Deadblow that won two Middleweight Rumbles, was the first season’s Middleweight runner-up, and became the third season’s first-ranked robot.
Imahara joined Discovery’s MythBusters in its third season, and stayed with the show until 2014 when he departed alongside co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci. The trio reunited in 2016 when they scored their own Netflix series, White Rabbit Project.
His former MythBusters colleagues have been paying tribute to Imahara on social media.
Former MythBusters host Adam Savage 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 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.”
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.
— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) July 14, 2020
Kari Byron tweeted a series of photos of Imahara, writing, “Heartbroken and in shock tonight. We were just talking on the phone. This isn’t real.”
Tory Belleci also expressed his disbelief, saying, “I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is broken. Goodbye buddy.”