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Grant Imahara, ‘MythBusters’ and ‘White Rabbit Project’ host, dies at 49

Grant Imahara arrives for The Geekie Awards 2014 held at Avalon on Aug. 17, 2014 in Hollywood, Calif.
Grant Imahara arrives for The Geekie Awards 2014 held at Avalon on Aug. 17, 2014 in Hollywood, Calif. Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Grant Imahara, the American TV personality, robotics professional and electrical engineer, died on Monday. He was 49.

The entertainer was best known for his time as a host on the Discovery channel’s MythBusters between 2005 and 2014 as well as Netflix‘s White Rabbit Project in 2016. Before his career onscreen kicked off, Imahara worked behind the scenes on a variety of smash-hit films for Lucasfilm in the late 1990s and mid 2000s.

He was known as the “geek” alongside his “Build Team” co-hosts — Kari Byron and Tory Belleci — on MythBusters and when he wasn’t building robots for his colleagues to help “bust” myths, he would frequently participate in stunts for the science-centred series. Host Jamie Hyneman helped him get the job.

Imahara passed away suddenly following a brain aneurysm on July 13, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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(L-R) Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage attend the 2010 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Plaza L.A. LIVE on Aug. 21, 2010, in Los Angeles, Calif.
(L-R) Grant Imahara, Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage attend the 2010 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Plaza L.A. LIVE on Aug. 21, 2010, in Los Angeles, Calif. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

“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,” a representative for Discovery told the outlet in an official statement.

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In wake of the news of Imahara’s death, his longtime girlfriend and fiancée Jenny Newman took to Twitter expressing her grief.

“I lost a part of my heart and soul today,” she wrote on the social media platform. “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. I love you, honey,” Newman concluded.

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The couple got engaged back in December 2016, close to the premiere of White Rabbit Project.

MythBusters host Adam Savage said he was “at a loss” and had “no words” after hearing the news.

Even before the smash-hit series, Imahara and Savage, 52, had been longtime colleagues.

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“I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years,” Savage wrote on Twitter. “Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle person.”

“I’ll miss my friend,” he concluded.

Byron and Belleci paid tributes to their longtime colleague too, sharing pictures of some moments together.

“Somedays I wish I had a time machine,” Byron wrote as a caption for a picture of the trio smiling together.

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

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Here’s what a number of other friends of Imahara’s had to say about his death:

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Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, Byron shared even more photos of Imahara to her personal account over the course of several hours.

“Heartbroken and in shock tonight. We were just talking on the phone,” she wrote in one of the posts. “This isn’t real.”

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Following the 2005 departure of host Scottie Chapman in the midst of the series’ third season, Imahara joined the MythBusters team and became the new member of the Build Team.

At the end of the much-beloved show’s 12th season finale — which originally aired on Aug. 21, 2014 — Imahara announced his departure, along with Byron, 45, and Belleci, 49.

The trio went on to host White Rabbit Project together for one 10-episode season, which premiered on Netflix in December 2016.

Before his career lifted off in the film and TV industry, Imahara attended the University of Southern California, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree as an electrical engineer.

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Following his graduation, Imahara was hired as an engineer for Lucasfilm subsidiary THX, before briefly moving over to its visual effects division, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

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Imahara spent nine years with ILM and worked on a plethora of blockbuster films in that time, including The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), all three of George Lucas‘s Star Wars prequels (1999-2005) and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).

Imahara also appeared sporadically on the popular robot combat TV series BattleBots as both a contestant and a host, thanks to his robotics expertise. Additionally, he created a robot sideshow called Geoff Peterson for Scottish-American comedian Craig Ferguson, while he was still hosting The Late Late Show back in 2010.

For Star Wars particularly, Imahara was heavily involved in updating and maintaining the fan-favourite Astromech droid R2-D2 as well as creating VFX for the action-heavy films. He even worked on the Energizer bunny robot that has appeared in the battery company’s commercials for years.

Imahara was born to a Japanese-American family in Los Angeles, Calif., on Oct. 23, 1970.

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He is survived by Newman, his fiancée.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca