Grant Imahara, cohost of the wildly popular TV show Mythbusters, died on Monday at the age of 49, according to a report from the Hollywood Reporter. The cause of death was reportedly a sudden brain aneurysm.
Trained in electrical engineering, Imahara worked at George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic during the 1990s and 2000s, building robots for the Star Wars prequels. Imahara also led the team handling animatronics for movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Galaxy Quest, and the Matrix sequels, among plenty of other classic sci-fi films.
But it was his roles on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters and Netflix’s White Rabbit Project that would win Imahara worldwide recognition as an enthusiastic and joyful presence in the world of technology. The outpouring of grief over Imahara’s death on social media was immediate, with both somber friends and grateful viewers sharing stories of how much he meant to them.
“Heartbroken and in shock tonight,” Imahara’s cohost Kari Byron tweeted overnight. “We were just talking on the phone. This isn’t real.”
Heartbroken and in shock tonight. We were just talking on the phone. This isn’t real. pic.twitter.com/8zE2afcwSu
— Kari Byron (@KariByron) July 14, 2020
“I’m at a loss. No words,” another cohost, Adam Savage, tweeted late Monday. “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.”
Social media users also celebrated Imahara as a role model for Asian-American kids who often struggle to find themselves represented positively on TV.
“I recall him being one of the first Asian Americans I encountered on television depicted in a positive light. He gave me passion to do well in school,” one Twitter user said.
Imahara was born in Los Angeles in 1970 and graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in electrical engineering. Imahara loved building battle-robots and even wrote a book in 2003 called Kickin’ Bot: An Illustrated Guide to Building Combat Robots. Imahara even filled in as C-3PO for special events while working at Industrial Light and Magic. He reportedly played the Star Wars robot in commercials, at red carpet events, and even on Oprah Winfrey’s show, according to a 2010 article from Wired.
There have been no reports about whether Imahara’s death was related to covid-19, a reasonable question to ask given the deadly pandemic that’s currently raging in the United States. Some people have died from strokes and aneurysms associated with coronavirus and Los Angeles County is currently experiencing a troubling surge in covid-19 cases, with numbers that now surpass all of Canada. But there’s no indication yet that Imahara’s death was anything but a sudden tragedy and a fluke aneurysm.
RIP Grant. You will be missed.