I can’t believe I’m writing this.
Grant Imahara has suddenly and tragically passed away at 49.
I never knew Grant personally. But also, like so many others, I knew him.
Pretty much every day after school when I was younger, I would see him on my TV screen. With my brother, I’d religiously watch him — along with his fellow build team members Kari Byron and Tory Belleci and main hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman — on the hit show MythBusters, which in the 2000’s was quite simply a big deal.
We used to record every single airing of the episodes on our DVR until we had hundreds of new episodes and re-runs and just watch them over and over again. We even begged our dad to buy us each a MythBusters t-shirt, which he did a great job in choosing:
In a nutshell, the show brought science to the mainstream in a presentable TV format not seen since Bill Nye the Science Guy and The Magic School Bus. The hosts were unapologetic in their curiosity of the myths they busted (and confirmed), their yearning of discovery, their giddiness in the process that made them — and their viewers — feel like kids again.
And Grant was such a huge part of it.
For me, but also just objectively, Grant was a total rarity. He was Asian-American — Japanese-American, specifically, just like me — and he was on one of the most popular shows on cable television. Not only that, but he was able to be himself in such a powerful role; part of the brains of the show, he was an invaluable member of the build team and was noted for his prowess in engineering and robotics.
He had earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at USC, and after he had worked nine years for Lucasfilms’ famous Industrial Light and Magic. In an era of practical effects, he brilliantly contributed to the Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Star Wars, and Terminator films.
He was on MythBusters because he belonged — and yet, he wasn’t a stereotypical geek or an antisocial engineer. He was incredibly well-liked by his colleagues and fit into the show’s chemistry seamlessly and always an as an equal, and any brief perusal of the outpouring of fan comments past and present reflects his popularity with the viewing public.
To me, seeing someone like Grant so adored and so competent on and off the screen throughout all these years was nothing short of inspirational. Simply put, I credit a lot of my interest in science and engineering to him. I wanted to learn like him, to be kind like him, to be liked like him. I know many others can say the same.
I had enjoyed keeping up with his latest pursuits via Instagram, like his reunion with Byron and Belleci on Netflix’s The White Rabbit Project and the animatronic Baby Yoda he had recently been building as a non-profit project to tour children’s hospitals. This all felt so recent, and it led me to thinking about all the other memories he’s left me with throughout the years.
I’ll forever remember his black collared shirt rolled up to his forearms, his denim blue jeans, his well-worn work boots — and invariably, his smile.
I’ll forever remember his fear of fish put on full display when he screamed, “Oh [censored], something just touched me!” as he flailed in the water on a Shark Week special of MythBusters.
I’ll forever remember his AMA on Reddit, where you could just feel the passion in his (many!) answers.
I’ll forever remember his generosity and support of social causes, like when he bought out movie theaters in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the #GoldOpen movement to let people watch 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians for free.
I’ll forever remember his sunglasses on, arms firmly stretched, hands on the wheel pose on an episode of MythBusters as he calmly tailgated a truck from distances from 100 all the way to 2 feet to test if drafting would be more fuel-efficient (spoiler: myth confirmed).
Today, Byron posted a photo along with her fellow co-hosts, simply saying that some days, she wishes she had a time machine.
With Grant’s help, they definitely could’ve made one.
All my respect to Grant’s family and friends. Please visit the Brain Aneurysm Foundation for one outlet to help. Anything made from this article will be donated there.