I Can Still Hear His Laugh: Blair Bunting Remembers Former “MythBusters” Host Grant Imahara
One of the most underrated TV shows out there is MythBusters. It’s a series that pretty much everyone knows about, but one that's more significant than those same people might realize. Take it from Blair Bunting, an Arizona-based photographer and self-admitted “nerd at heart”:
For so long, it was as if those that were science nerds were not “cool” in the way that athletes and actors were. MythBusters changed this and began to show how intellect could be fun and entertaining. It was the show that really started to make it okay to geek out over science.
Now that, my friends, is a powerful sentiment. We bring up the importance of this show because one of its most well-known hosts, roboticist-turned-celebrity Grant Imahara, died in July after suffering a ruptured brain aneurysm. He was 49. Blair not only loved MythBusters, he got a chance to work with some of the cast members in 2007 — Grant included — and lovingly retells the experience on his blog. You know how they say not to meet your heroes? Well, if you’re heroes are as nice as Grant, maybe don’t listen to that advice.
Upon arriving at my hotel the day before the shoot, I met with the publicist for the series and we talked all things science and nerd-dom over martinis. Things got even better when she got a call and said, “want to go have dinner with the guys?” By “guys” she meant Grant and Tory [Bellici] from the show. Reactively I said, “hell yes!” but, truthfully, I was nervous about trying not to sound like an obsessed fanboy or, even worse, meeting them and finding out that I had been duped by their “on screen persona” and that they were divas.
Within moments of meeting the guys, Blair realized they were just as cool (and kind) off-screen as on. A few cold ones later, and Blair was no longer a fan — he was just one of the guys.
It was a surreal feeling. The barrier between fan and celebrity was immediately gone and what remained was one group of friends that had a great time together and went through sangria pretty quickly.
I have definitely worked with celebrities and athletes that were divas. However, most of the time the subjects I have on set are quite pleasant, as we are all there working towards the same objective.
Grant took it a step further; he wasn’t just nice for the sake of being so, he was genuinely interested in discussing science with Blair and learning about the photographer’s own life. But still, when you’re meeting someone whose résumé says, “electrical engineer, roboticist, television host, and actor,” you’re going to want to talk about their background and their world.
Oh man, talking science with Grant was intense. I could tell he was trying so hard to simplify really complex concepts in an effort to make them more understandable for the rest of us.
Come shoot day, though, Blair was the one showing Grant the ropes. Blair is a veteran celebrity portraitist and has shot tons of athletes as well as actors. While the latter are obviously comfortable in front of the camera, it’s hit or miss with the former. Because of that, Blair has a trick up his sleeve to make them more at ease: he has them hold something.
Using a prop to make a subject more comfortable is a product of photographing so many athletes. It is very easy to see a player become more comfortable in front of the camera merely by handing them a ball.
Blair asked the MythBusters hosts to do the same, and when Grant’s turn came, he brought an LED light bulb. Blair was a bit confused as to why (he’d asked each person to bring an item from the show that meant something to them), but Grant was ready with an explanation.
He spoke a thousand words a second about how this lightbulb was made of LED bulbs and would someday be the standard of all lightbulbs, replacing filament and lowering power consumption for the entire world. It was 2007. That’s how Grant’s mind worked: the science drove his emotion and enthusiasm, and his vision of the world was years ahead of the reality in which the rest of us existed.
That said, a lightbulb isn’t big enough as a prop to really get the subject into a rhythm that suits the photographer. So, Grant recalibrated and came back with a giant sword.
Shot after shot of un-coached humor and fun followed, driven by his infectious personality and positive energy.
That was the first of two times Blair worked with Grant — the second shoot took place in 2010 — and the late engineer was the same positive, down-to-earth person the second time around. Learning about Grant and his castmates, it’s easy to see why MythBusters became so popular and positively affected so many lives.
Even though it has been a number of years, I can still hear his laugh and see his excitement. While saddened by his loss, these memories still bring me happiness.
Check out more of Blair's work at blairbunting.com.
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