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Grant Imahara: Mythbusters TV host dies suddenly at 49

Grant Imahara, the former co-host of TV science shows Mythbusters and White Rabbit Project, has died suddenly at the age of 49.

He also made special effects models for films including the Star Wars prequels.

The Discovery Channel, which aired Mythbusters and BattleBots, on which Imahara was a judge, described him as “a really wonderful man”.

Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage wrote that he was “such a generous, easygoing, and gentle person”.

Fellow Mythbusters and White Rabbit Project presenter Kari Bryon responded to the news by writing: “Somedays I wish I had a time machine.”

Another of the shows’ stars, Tory Belleci, said: “I just cannot believe it. I don’t even know what to say. My heart is broken.”

Before moving in front of the camera, Imahara worked for Lucasfilm’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions for nine years, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That involved making animatronic models for movies like The Matrix Reloaded, Galaxy Quest, XXX: State of the Union, Van Helsing, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

He competed in Comedy Central’s BattleBots before being recruited for Mythbusters, which uses science to test popular myths.

After leaving the show in 2014, he, Byron and Belleci moved on to Netflix’s White Rabbit Project, described as ranking history’s “greatest inventions, heists and more”, which ran for one season.

Tributes were paid by fans, friends and followers, including actor Matthew Mercer and internet personality Gavin Free.

Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall consult over job cuts

Bosses at two concert halls have said half of their staff are at risk of redundancy as they attempt to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Birmingham’s Town Hall and Symphony Hall (THSH) have entered a period of redundancy consultation following an extended closure due to Covid-19.

The company said it must take the “painful decision” to reduce staff due to the continuing uncertainty ahead.

Chief executive Nick Reed said the news was “heartbreaking”.

The consultation comes despite emergency relief funding by Arts Council England and THSH said in order to have “any chance of survival” it needs “a time-based reopening strategy from the government and the funding to reach that point”.

The organisation said the future of the two venues, and the music charity responsible for them, “looks very different from the plans we began the year with”.

Birmingham Town Hall, which opened in 1834 and is renowned for its 70ft organ, is located in Victoria Square and has hosted the likes of David Bowie and Led Zeppelin.

Symphony Hall, inside the ICC on Broad Street, opened 29 years ago and is considered one of the country’s finest concert halls.

Last week, the nearby Birmingham Repertory Theatre announced 47 jobs could go and warned its survival was at risk, while the Hippodrome is also consulting over redundancies.

Mr Reed said: “Our thoughts are very much with the employees and their families that will be affected by this decision, as well as the numerous freelance musicians and artists who have been impacted by this global pandemic.”

THSH said those affected had been contacted and no final decision on redundancies would be made until the consultation process had been completed.

Duchess of Cambridge backs BBC's Tiny Happy People scheme to help children

The Duchess of Cambridge has said there is “a massive gap” in support given to parents after the first few months of a child’s life until they start school.

It was something she felt too as a new mum, the duchess told BBC Breakfast.

Catherine was speaking as part of the launch of the BBC’s Tiny Happy People initiative for children aged 0-4.

It aims to help parents develop their children’s language skills with simple activities including free online videos and quizzes.

During the interview, the duchess also spoke about the difficulties of life in lockdown for so many, but said one of the “silver linings” might be that we revalue how important our relationships are.

‘Gold dust for families’

The duchess has long championed the importance of improving early years support for children. Earlier this year, she ran a nationwide survey to “spark a national conversation” and help create change for future generations.

At the heart of the BBC’s five-year Tiny Happy People initiative is a simple message – talk to children from as early an age as possible.

It includes a range of online activities including parenting tips, films, articles and quizzes launched to help parents and carers develop the communication skills of their young children, right from the start of pregnancy.

The scheme was initially launched in Manchester last October, and Catherine has been involved for several months.

She recently met families at Sandringham, the Queen’s estate in Norfolk, to hear about how they had found the activities. One of the parents she spoke with, Ryan, said they had helped him to identify that his eight-month-old daughter Mia has five different cries.

“He’s learned a huge amount from Tiny Happy People,” the duchess said, speaking to the BBC in the grounds of Sandringham.

“It’s information like that I wish I had had as a first time mum, it’s gold dust really for families to be given those tips and tools to be able to use, particularly in those first five years.”

She said parents receive help from midwives and health visitors after a baby is born, but there’s a gap before they start school.

Research by the National Literacy Trust shows that once children start behind, they stay behind, affecting performance in school, job prospects and even life expectancy.

And other Department for Education research shows more than one in four children (27%) in England does not reach the necessary level of literacy development – meaning language, communication and literacy skills – by the time they start primary school, rising to more than one in three (42%) in deprived areas.

‘So proud of BBC commitment’

The free films, articles and quizzes explain the science behind baby brain development.

They include fun activities to do with both babies and toddlers to support language development and parent wellbeing, along with tips for new and soon-to-be parents.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the part we’re playing in this amazing partnership,” said Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC.

“Growing up happy and healthy is the greatest gift we can give to any child. This campaign embodies our mission to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC has created hundreds of videos and written content that we hope will make a real difference.”

James Purnell, the director of BBC Radio and Education, added: “Early years language provides the foundation for all aspects of a child’s life – right into adulthood.

“Tiny Happy People is a major, long-term education commitment from the BBC to help close the under-fives language and communication gap, and help give kids the best chance in life. We’re all so proud of it and look forward to seeing parents and carers from across the UK using the materials.”

The duchess helped in the character and background development for two animations on parenting, which are now available on the Tiny Happy People website, about making eye contact with babies and singing to babies.

Also supporting the initiative are a number of celebrities who are using the activities to build their own infants’ communication skills, including soap stars Jennie McAlpine and Kieron Richardson, singer and farmer JB Gill, former Love Islanders Jess and Dom Lever, BBC Three presenter Annie Price, and Louise Pentland, who was voted the UK’s favourite mum influencer last year.

Catherine and her husband, the Duke of Cambridge, have three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.

The Royal Foundation website says the duchess believes “many of society’s greatest social and health challenges” could be “mitigated or entirely avoided” if young children are given “the right support”.

Naya Rivera: Glee actress's career in pictures

Actress Naya Rivera, who died during a boat trip with her young son on a lake in California, was one of the stars of the hit teen TV series Glee.

Rivera, 33, began her career as a four-year-old in the Royal Family sitcom on CBS.

But she became best-known for playing Glee’s cold-hearted Santana Lopez in all six seasons of the musical comedy, which ran from 2009 to 2015 on the Fox network.

Rivera (third right) appeared alongside co-stars including (left-right) Lea Michele, Jenna Ushkowitz, Chris Colfer, Amber Riley, Heather Morris and Dianna Agron.

The show soon gained a huge fanbase. Viewers followed the lives of the members of McKinley High School’s glee club and their memorable musical performances.

Rivera’s character dated and later married her best friend Brittany, played by Morris. She joined fellow Glee actors Kevin McHale, Morris and Josh Sussman at 2010’s Emmy Awards nominees’ party (pictured).

Rivera, third right, joined her co-stars at the Golden Globes in 2011, where Glee won best comedy or musical TV series for the second year in a row. The show won a number of other Globes and Emmy Awards, and featured guest spots by Britney Spears, Gwyneth Paltrow and Neil Patrick Harris.

Rivera and Riley performed Glee’s 300th musical performance in 2011.

Glee made global celebrities of its cast. Rivera is pictured at the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where they were nominated for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series.

The same year, she won two trophies at the Alma (American Latino Media Arts) Awards – for favourite female music artist and favourite TV comedy actress.

In 2014, Rivera starred in the horror film At the Devil’s Door and married fellow actor Ryan Dorsey, the father of their son Josey. The couple divorced in 2018.

In 2016, Rivera published a book titled Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up, which urged young women to pursue their dreams and to refuse to let mistakes define them.

Rivera and Josey Hollis Dorsey were pictured at the 2019 premiere of The Lego Movie 2.

Hollyoaks star Talia Grant says black people treated as 'disposable' on TV

Hollyoaks actress Talia Grant has spoken about how the TV industry, “like life in general”, treats black people as being “disposable”.

She told the soap’s Don’t Filter Your Feelings podcast that the media “can capitalise off of us without actually doing the real work behind the scenes”.

Grant, 18, was discussing racism alongside co-stars Trevor A Toussaint and Richard Blackwood.

It comes a month after Rachel Adedeji said she witnessed racism on the soap.

Grant, who plays Brooke on the Channel 4 soap, told the podcast: “It’s amazing that there is a black cast, and there’s all of us, and there is that diversity.

“But I can’t help but feel that sometimes in the industry, and in life in general, they treat black people like we’re disposable.”

She said she had “dealt with difficult situations and micro aggressions” on the soap.

The actress added: “It’s great for us to be in a high up position, but we’re still going to experience it.

“The revolution will not be changed by diversity training, or racism training. It is changed by people changing their attitude and the way that the structural system works.”

Toussaint, who plays Walter, pointed out that there were no senior black staff on the Liverpool set of the soap, which is made by Lime Pictures.

The actor said: “There’s racism in society… TV is no exception to this. There is not one person of colour… who has a position of authority within Lime Pictures. Why is that?

“I think I’ve seen two black directors in all the time I’ve been there and definitely no black producers. Why?”

Lime Pictures said Toussaint’s comments did not apply to its London operation, but acknowledged it needed to do better.

“Hollyoaks celebrates inclusivity on screen and off,” a statement said. “Whilst we believe that is evident on screen, we recognise that we need to do more to increase and support inclusivity behind the camera, especially for black writers, directors and crew.

“We have significantly increased the number of writers of colour working on Hollyoaks, but we need to do more to support black writers in particular.”

‘Extremely grateful’

The company said it had various initiatives in place to increase diversity, including a new writing award and internships.

Grant also said she was “extremely grateful” for the way the soap had dealt with her autism.

“They really made an effort, they all went on training, I felt just accepted and understood. People didn’t view me as the problem,” she said.

The trio also discussed racism and micro-aggressions beyond the broadcasting industry.

‘I’m not scared of losing my job’

Recounting a recurring experience, Toussaint said: “I’m sitting on the Tube and it’s a white person and they look around and there’s only one seat left and it’s the seat next to me and they will look directly at me and they choose to stand.

“If you say to a white person, ‘That is a micro aggression’, they will discount it because they haven’t lived through that time and time and time again.

“Even at this point in my life, someone will say to me, ‘You’re really eloquent, aren’t you?’ And then there’s a pause.”

Toussaint also said: “I have lost jobs because I’ve spoken out and I’m not scared of losing my job. I have been vilified because I’ve spoken out about racism within companies. I’ve been beaten up because I’ve spoken out, I’ve been arrested because I’ve spoken out.”

The podcast was the first in a series of special episodes in which Hollyoaks cast members will discuss racism and their personal experiences in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Naya Rivera: Police find body in search for missing Glee star

Police searching for missing Glee star Naya Rivera say a body has been found in a lake in southern California.

Rivera, 33, went missing on Wednesday after going boating with her four-year-old son at Lake Piru. He was found alone and asleep in the boat.

Divers and teams using sonar equipment resumed the search on Monday. Police have not given details, and a news conference will be held later.

Rivera is best known for playing the cheerleader Santana Lopez in Glee.

Her son told police they had gone swimming but the actress never returned. After a massive search and rescue operation found no trace of Rivera, police moved to a “search and recovery operation”.

They said she is believed to have drowned in a “tragic accident”.

Sgt Kevin Donoghue, a spokesman for Ventura County Sheriff Department, earlier told the BBC that they were “putting every available asset and resource” into the search.

That included using side-scanning sonar, divers, sniffer dogs, helicopters and remote-operated submarine vehicles equipped with cameras.

He added that Rivera’s son had seen his mother “disappear beneath the water”.

Who is Naya Rivera?

Rivera began her career as a child actress and model, appearing in TV commercials in the US.

As a four-year-old, she starred in the Royal Family sitcom on CBS and had a number of other TV appearances.

But it was playing cold-hearted Santana Lopez in Glee, the hugely popular musical comedy TV series, that made her a star.

In 2014, Rivera starred in the horror film At the Devil’s Door.