When the initial episodes of MythBusters debuted on the Discovery Channel, no one could have anticipated the phenomenon that it would ignite and or that it would lead to hundreds of episodes over more than a decade. As attention towards the series grew, as did the scope of the myths being tested, requiring hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to enlist some of their trusted collaborators to help them realize their ambitious ideas. This also resulted in the series adding a trio of all-new hosts, with Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara being deemed "The Build Team," who not only frequently worked with the series leads, but would also handle myths of their own.
Belleci was already experienced at bringing absurd visions into reality, having worked at Industrial Light & Magic as a model maker, contributing to Starship Troopers, The Matrix sequels, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy. His established connections with Savage and Imahara made him the perfect fit for the series, as he also helped add plenty of humor. His fearlessness at tackling any build was rivaled only by his fearlessness at accepting duties other hosts passed on, knowing that it could come with some serious bodily harm.
In the series' final seasons, the Build Team exited and worked on their own various projects, which would include the White Rabbit Project and Punkin Chunkin for Belleci.
In honor of the five-year anniversary of MythBusters' conclusion in 2016, ComicBook.com caught up with Belleci to talk about his role on the series, unexpected fan encounters, and the myth he's wanted to test his whole career.
ComicBook.com: Before diving into MythBusters, I know you're pals with Steve Gonsalves from Ghost Hunters and now Ghost Nation, and since there are so many myths about the supernatural, have you guys ever talked about collaborating on a project together?
Tory Belleci: I've known Steve since the show started because we had a mutual booking agent so that's originally how we met, because we started getting booked at these comic book conventions. The first one we went to, we met all the Ghost Hunters and Steve and I just hit it off straight away. We were just like lost brothers and I've known him for so long, so I know I've asked him like, "What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen?" Or, "What's the craziest thing that's ever happened?
He's told me some pretty crazy stuff and he's always asking me to come on his show as the skeptic, be like a guest skeptic to come in and see if what they're doing adds up. Then we've always talked about doing a show together. Just he had some ideas or we'd just throw ideas around about exploring weird stuff, but we've never gotten anything off the ground, but it's always just on our list of things, like, "We've got to do a show together at some point in our career. Let's figure out a collaboration."
Well you can count on me tuning in for whatever project that might be, that's for sure.
The original Ghost Hunters was on SYFY and so it's like his show was starting to blow up and our show is starting to blow up and we had the same time slot. It was like a Wednesday at nine, so we would always joke about like, "I want to watch your show, but I also want to watch my show." He's the best. I mean, Steve is seriously, he's like one of the nicest guys. We'll have to figure out a show for us to do together, just for you.prevnext
Given that we were just talking about ghosts, would you say there are any myths that you're "haunted" by, in the sense that you felt like you could have gotten a better answer if you spent more time on them? Or possibly a myth you always wanted to test for the series but just couldn't make happen?
Well, there's one that we've always wanted to do and then, what's crazy, is we started filming a new version called "Motor MythBusters" on MotorTrend. So that'll be on the MotorTrend app and the MotorTrend channel, but it's me and two new co-hosts and we're just looking at all car-related myths. There's one that I've always wanted to do, was can an F1 car, which they say that they drive so fast that there's so much downforce created by the wind dragging that you could potentially overcome gravity. So if you have a helix track, you could drive the F1 race car upside down, and that is one myth that we have always talked about. But, obviously, no one's going to let us drive a two-million-dollar car upside down and who's crazy enough to drive that car?
So is there a version of that, maybe even a small scale, that you think you could test some day?
I doubt it. That's one we have on the board and I keep pushing for it. That was one that we've talked about, and wanted to do since the original MythBusters and now we're doing this new version. I'm still pushing, but everyone was like, "You're nuts. We'll never be able to afford to do that. There's no way you could do that." So that's a wishlist. That's one I dream of, for myths to test, but we do have a bunch of crazy car myths that we're going to be testing, so it's going to be fun.prevnext
Obviously, there were things you got to do for MythBusters that you got to do, maybe not driving an F1, but other things where you couldn't believe you got to do it as your job. Do you remember the first time you had that realization and appreciation of your duties on MythBusters? And, on the other end, a time you were in an absurd or challenging position where you couldn't believe you had to do something so ridiculous for a living?
I think the first time it was like, "Oh my God, I can't believe this Is my job," was Season 2 when we were doing testing dynamite in a cement truck and the myth was a guy's concrete sets up inside of his truck, and so instead of using a jackhammer, he loaded it with sticks of dynamite to break up the concrete and it blew up the whole cement truck. We were testing it for about a week and just nothing ever happened. The cement truck wasn't disappearing. The concrete wasn't cracking and we were up to, I think, five sticks of dynamite and literally nothing's happening. We're like, "We don't have a story."
So the producers came up with the idea. They're like, "Well, what if we just filled the entire inside of the cement truck with explosive? If we did that, wouldn't that be a great ending to the show?" So we took the cement truck out to a quarry and loaded it up with like 850 pounds of ANFO and they were like, "We have to go film on a Saturday," and I was like, "Oh. We're filming on Saturday?" I'm like, "What are we doing?" "Well, we're going to go blow up the cement truck." I was like, "Oh, my God. This is the best day ever." But that was the first moment of like, "This is my job? This is amazing."
And then the first moment of, "Oh, why did I agree to this," we were testing red flag to a bull. The concept is that if a bull sees red, it gets angry and will charge you, and so we tested it and tested it. We finally came to the conclusion that bulls don't see color. They see movement, so they're like, "You can dress up," and this was my idea. I was like, "I'll dress up in a red jumpsuit and stand in the middle of a ring and just stand still and see if the bull comes after me." And they're like, "You'll do that?" I'm like, "Yeah, that sounds cool." I was a huge fan of Jackass, so I was like, "This will be totally my Jackass moment. Yes, I'll do this." And then the day of the shoot, they're like, "Okay." Now they open up this gate and there's this 1600-pound bull coming straight at you and it was like, "Oh, why did I say this was a good idea?"prevnext
Luckily you guys have hundreds of hours of memories you can revisit anytime you want, but when it comes to physical keepsakes, do you have a favorite souvenir you took away from the show?
Yeah, I got a bunch of stuff. When the show shut down, they were getting rid of a lot of things. I got a shield from the Archimedes Death Ray. I got a fractured skull when we were doing superhero punch power and we built a robotic arm that would punch. We have an actual human skull that we tested this on and I have that now. Recently, the MythBusters Museum closed down, so I got a bunch of props, or not props, they were things that we use from the show. I have the knife where I stabbed a sail to slide down, where you see the pirates stab the sail with his knife and then uses it to slow him down as he slides down the sail. I have that knife.
So yeah, I have a bunch of props and stuff from the show and I don't know if you remember, there was a '73 Camaro that we used for a bunch of myths and one of them was can you drive using moonshine instead of gasoline. So I bought that car. I would say that's probably my most prized possession of all the things I have from the show.prevnext
You mention having your "Jackass moment" in that bull myth, and you built a reputation as being the daredevil of the Build Team, have you found your time on MythBusters hindering your opportunities at all? Were their opportunities you wanted to pursue but you were just seen as "That MythBusters Guy" and had to fall into that role?
It's been nothing but positive. I mean, I never wanted to be on TV. I was always behind the scenes. I worked at Industrial Light & Magic for about eight years as a model maker and effects guy, and so the thought of being in front of the camera was like my worst nightmare. Then when MythBusters started, it was like, "Let's see. I'll try this out, see if I like television. If this doesn't work out, I'll just go back to doing effects." I was a background builder on the first, or I guess it was Season 2 of MythBusters and then it was like halfway through that season they're like, "You guys have got to step up and become hosts."
So that, for me, it was my worst nightmare because imagine having a camera crew following you around at work and catching all your mistakes. I mean, it's just pure embarrassment. I just didn't want to do it. It took maybe a year or so 'til I was at least just comfortable to be on television and then the show just kept going. When the show was over, it just opened up so many more opportunities to get new shows, and just to get meetings, you'd have to go to networks where you could just call up the network and they knew who you were and you would just walk in and have these pitch meeting. So, for me, it was nothing but a positive experience.prevnext
"Just a Regular Guy."
Since you and your fellow co-hosts aren't playing characters, you're playing yourself, fans of the show become fans of who you guys are as people. You do all these conventions and stuff where you meet fans and they obviously feel a personal connection to you, since you've been in their homes for hundreds of hours over more than a decade. Have you had any bizarre encounters with fans, possibly when they've gotten too familiar with you?
Yeah, you're a 100% right because we're not characters. We're not playing characters on a show. We're ourselves and so people do feel very close to us and they don't have a ... like with an actor, if you're an actor and you're like, "Oh, okay. I don't want to approach them because I don't know what they're like," but with us, they're watching us interact and behave the way we do, so they feel like they're best friends with us.
There was one time when I was at Best Buy and I was looking for a certain movie and I was at the DVD stand and I'm standing there just searching for whatever it was. I felt a person come over and he's looking. I look up and I can see out of the corner of my eye he looks over and takes a step back. And I'm like, "Uh-oh. This guy, he's recognized me." And then he's just standing there staring and I'm keeping an eye on him through my peripheral, and he's like, "Tory?" And I look over. I'm like, "Yeah." "Oh, man. I knew that was you. Look at you. You're just like a regular guy just looking for a movie like me. You're just like a regular guy like me." It was such a real, funny moment. This guy is just like, "Look at you. You're just like a regular guy just like me."prevnext
Grant the Geek
Speaking to fans watching your actual personalities, fans were devastated when Grant passed away last year. Was there a side of Grant that maybe the cameras couldn't quite capture in the way you experienced after working with him all those years?
Grant was, from the get-go, he was the classic geek. When I first met him at ILM, he would wear a lab coat every day and we were model makers, but he would be wearing his lab coat and he just loved geeky stuff. And then when MythBusters started, he just evolved into this -- almost like a character of himself. He just put everything out there. I feel like people really got to know him because he was constantly posting stuff about all the crazy things that he was into.
I remember when Doctor Who came to the U.S. and he was a huge Doctor Who fan and he would just buy all these ridiculous costumes and his closet was just filled with all these different character costumes. He had Han Solo when we did a Star Wars myths in an episode and he came dressed in his own Han Solo costume, so it was funny. I feel like that's why people felt so close to him is because he was just so open about all the crazy stuff he was into.prevnext
Say it's years from now and Discovery is able to convince Jamie to come out of retirement and Adam and Kari also sign on for it, could you see yourself doing a reunion if Grant wasn't involved or would it be too hard to even attempt to recreate that magic?
I think if there was a reunion, which I don't ever foresee happening, but I mean, I think if it did happen, it might just be like a special where it's like we get together and just reminisce. But to come back together, I mean, it's like that magic, we caught something at a certain time with a certain group, and it was amazing how it took off. It was like a perfect storm of all the right characters and when the internet was just starting to become more of an important part of culture, right? At the time, the internet, I think it was like 2001 or 2002 when the show started, and so at the time, the internet was still very young and people weren't on it as much as they are like today. Now it's just ingrained in everything we do.
I think that having the internet starting and stories being perpetuated throughout people and their psyche, that you would hear these stories, and usually it was passed word of mouth. But now, with the internet, these stories could go across the globe instantly and so it was a perfect time for a show like ours where it was, "Let's look at these misconceptions, test them, see if there's any validity to it." I just don't think you'll ever capture that magic again, at least with our group of MythBusters.prevnext
Discovering Dream Jobs
More than five years removed from the job and having gotten so many exciting opportunities, do you look back at MythBusters as your dream job or do you think it has just inspired you to pursue what you realize your dream job really is?
Well, I feel like MythBusters was a dream job that I didn't know yet. It was terrifying to me to be doing television and talking on camera. I remember watching the first episode. I was like, "Oh, my God. My voice is so whiny," and, "Oh. Look at my stance. My posture is horrible." So it took some time to get used to, but it became the dream job. And what's great is the dream jobs are still coming.
I just did a show with Richard Hammond called The Great Escapists on Amazon. He's trying to bring back that pop-science show and it's a totally ridiculous idea and it's so goofy because it's like he and I are stuck on this deserted island, but we're using our science and engineering know-how to make the island better and try to get off the island. It's like this whole new chapter in my life where it's like, "Oh, my gosh, this is the new dream job. This is the best job I've ever had with one of the most amazing presenters in the world." So it's weird how it's just like these opportunities just keep coming.
And you have the "Motor MythBusters" show?
The Great Escapists is out now, so they can watch that. Kids are loving it because it is a very family-safe show. You can watch it with your kids and you're not going to have to worry about the things we do. And then yeah, the "Motor MythBusters" will come out. I'm not sure, we're filming until probably the beginning of the summer, and then so it'll either come out at the end of the year, or maybe the beginning of 2022.
Just one other thing: I'm going to be in a movie. I can't tell you what the movie is. It's literally like, it'll be such a tiny little scene, I play myself, so you'll know it's me and this one is like another dream come true. It's so ridiculous, but yeah. So that should come out either the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
So you're going to be in a new Avengers movie it sounds like.
It's nothing that high brow, but it's pretty freaking awesome. It's like a dream come true, so to keep your eyes peeled for that quick, quick little scene in a movie.
Don't forget your show with Steve Gonsalves about ghosts.
Me and Steve Gonsalves, we've got to do this now. I'm going to give him a call today and tell him some things. "They told us we have to make a show."
Hear me out: he does Ghost Nation now, you were on MythBusters, so I already have the perfect name. You should call it "Ghost Busters." How about that?
I think, yeah, that would be easy to get the title for that, it's not going to cost a lot to get that title.
The Great Escapists is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. You can head to Tory Belleci's official website to stay up to date with all of his projects.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.prev