Grant Imahara, a roboticist and electrical engineer whose work appeared in films and TV series such as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, The Matrix Reloaded, and MythBusters, died suddenly on Monday following a brain aneurysm. He was 49 years old.
Imahara worked for years at storied special-effects firm Industrial Light and Magic, where he worked on films such as A.I: Artificial Intelligence, Galaxy Quest, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the two sequels to The Matrix, and George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy. On the last of those, he was responsible for restoring and recreating the iconic R2D2 robot for the new films. Imahara also created Geoff Petersen, the comedic robot co-host from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
But he is probably best-known to most people as a member of the build team on MythBusters for many years, with co-hosts Tory Belleci and Kari Byron. On the show, Imahara was often portrayed as the geek of the group as he worked on robots and computers related to the myths that were tested over the course of the series. He was an infectiously positive personality on screen and was beloved by fans.
He was also a fan of live-action role-playing and was a widely known and well-regarded figure in many online communities, as well as in the Los Angeles robotics, science, and geek culture social scenes. He is remembered by friends and colleagues as a down-to-earth, warm, and positive human being.
His passing was met by an outpouring of grief from former co-workers, friends, and others whose lives he touched. “I’m at a loss,” wrote MythBusters host Adam Savage. “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.”
Fellow MythBusters build team members Kari Byron and Tory Belleci also expressed grief. “I wish I had a time machine,” Byron tweeted alongside a photo with her, Belleci, and Imahara. “I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is broken,” wrote Belleci.
Imahara is survived by long-time partner Jennifer Newman, a costume designer. “I lost a part of my heart and soul today,” she wrote on Twitter. “He was so generous and kind, so endlessly sweet and so loved by his incredible friends. I feel so lucky to have known him, to have loved & been loved by him.”