Manning the post as the only on-screen female MythBuster, Kari Byron is doing more than just solving burning questions of curious viewers around the world. A newly wed wife and mother of a newborn baby, Byron has traveled near and far solving the most controversial myths and loving every minute of it.
A San Francisco native, Byron, 34, ended up on the show as somewhat of an accident. Interning for M5 Industries, Kari was first utilized for her “behind” for an early episode about a woman getting stuck on an airplane toilet. Since then, she has shown off more than just her romper with risqu© photos in FHM Magazine, becoming one of the most fantasized about engineers of all time.
BLAST: Can you describe your first TV show experience?
KARI BYRON: I was in kindergarten, I Was on the news. In kindergarten I had this crazy teacher, Mrs. Peck. Crazy and most amazing classroom she got to play Mother Nature in our school play. Other than that, pretty much “Mythbusters” is it.
BLAST: How long have you been on the “Mythbusters?”
KB: Pretty much since it started. I wanted to try to get into special effects and I love sculpture, so I wanted to apply it and actually make some money out of it other than in the arts. And so I came to Jamie in the shop, M5 Industries and asked for an internship. Got an internship with Jamie, and it turns out my first day as an intern was the first day Mythbusters started filming there. They had a little project that they needed a girl for. He did this story called airplane toilet where a larger woman was using an airplane toilet and flushed before standing up and got sucked into it. That’s the myth at least. They needed to make a mold of a behind for the experiment and I just happened to let them volunteer mine. It was sort of a trade off. They did a 3D scan of mine and I was able to work on it on a computer sculpturing software so I could learn the program. I thought no one would see this because it was just a silly little cable show. Didn’t know it would end up being the first thing you see when you Google my name six years later.
BLAST: “Mythbusters” is really growing. It’s everywhere.
KB: I know. It is in almost every country and everywhere we go. My uncle has said it’s been translated in Spanish, Chinese and seen as far as Costa Rica. I get emails from everywhere from Prague to Botswana.
BLAST: Do people come up to you randomly on the street and ask you ridiculous questions expecting you to know the answer?
KB: Absolutely, every single time. They come up to all of us. The cool thing about this job is we get to take on these little strange questions and investigate them to the fullest extent. We have 4-5 researchers who work around the clock on these weird stories. You should really hear some of their phone calls. They get to call people and ask, “So where can I find a full size engine we can throw a hand into,” or “where can I find a stomach with all the acids still in it.” I got lucky, I get to be on the end with all the hands on fun stuff.
BLAST Who’s idea was it to build a cannon out of duct tape?
KB: That one we actually found through the viewers website. We have discovery.com/mythbusters, where we have a message board where you can send in your ideas, or if you’ve read something in a history book that sounds totally absurd, and you want to see if its true. You give us the myth ideas, and then they might just make it on the show. So since we had so many people send us myths about duct tape, we decided to just got for it. We just picked out a few that we liked. It was so popular, that that’s one that people keep stopping me on the street to tell me new ideas about. And in fact, it was so popular that we might be doing a Duct Tape 2 episode in the future. We were so excited to do these, they were so great.
BLAST: What is the step by step process of a myth getting onto the show?
KB: Well, you know its kind of a random mix of when we can do these, how easily we can do them and even the weather. We find different myths from us scouring the internet, people submitting ideas on the message boards, talking to us on the street, and viewers sending in stuff. We also have a master list we have been building since Mythbusters inception in 2003. We have a lot to pick from. If it just so happens that we have access to a huge wind machine, we might just do something with hurricanes. It’s really just depends on what were interested in and how easy it is to do. We also look at what is going on in the media at that time, for instance, balloon boy. If we decided to do that, we might do it sooner than later. Then we break it apart to see what the process is to do it. Then we have a story meeting that breaks it down and we figure out the process using the scientific method as our outline: how we will go through the process itself. Then we break up the projects, film it, and then it goes into editing. It usually takes between 3 and 6 months before the show goes to air.
BLAST: Is there a lot of editing that goes into it?
KB: Oh yea. Well, we can’t fake anything. We don’t have a huge staff of people that come in and do all the work for us. We are basically doing it with minimal help. We aren’t faking the science. If it takes three days to come up with a number to calibrate a cannon; it takes three days. You guys get to see the ten-seconds it gets edited down to when it might have taken 100 hours to film.
Its funny, I almost feel stronger, more organized. I sweat the small stuff less. You don’t have time for wasting time. It’s a full day. You wake up in the morning, take care of baby, go to work, take care of Mythbusters, go home, take care of baby. Every minute is accounted for. It’s so much more fun and fulfilling and I just don’t waste time anymore. Going back to work, is kind of fun. At home I am taking care of baby and of mom, but at work, I am taking care of Kari. It is really fulfilling to be a mom. It is hard work but it is so worth it. I have the support of my husband and my girlfriend who takes care of my baby when I am at work.
BLAST: How is married life?
KB: Oh rad. I have the most adorable husband ever.
BLAST: Does he watch you on TV and is just shocked that you get to do what most boys would love to do?
KB: I don’t know, half the stuff I do, he’s like “I cant believe you even wanted to do that stuff, that’s nuts! He is a little bit of an adventurer himself. He does all sorts of things that boys want to do as well. He races motorcycles and is a tattoo artist and is just generally a bad-ass.
BLAST: Are there any myths you really want to bust that haven’t been on the show?
KB: Upside down race cars. That is something we would all just love to do. It is basically that the race car can move so fast and have so much downwind force that it can drive upside down on the track. All we need is a track and a Formula 1 race car, which you know, we can’t find anyone who wants to lend us one. So unless we can find the budget of $1 million dollars to pay for one, we have to wait to do that one. It’s not impossible its just expensive.
BLAST: Are most things really expensive?
KB: The amazing part of our support structure here at “Mythbusters” is they can get so much stuff for free, or for trade or for the most minute amount of money. They are wheelers and dealers. Since the show is getting more popular, people have been offering us stuff more and more. We work with bomb squads, police and fire companies. They always help us out a little bit. People call and say, “Hey do you want to blow up our car?” We keep it at a pretty low cost. We have the lowest possible cost because the people we work with are doing a little bit of the hustle for us.
BLAST: What does it feel like being the only girl on the show?
KB: You know I am only the only girl on camera, but off camera we have female researchers, producers and coordinators. There are tons of women. You only see me on screen, but it’s a huge team effort behind the camera, so it doesn’t feel like I am the only girl in any way.
BLAST: What was it like to pose for FHM Magazine?
KB: Now that I had a kid, I am really glad I did it back then. It was really fun and funny because we don’t have makeup and hair on the show, so getting prettied up and getting all that attention was really great. And the pictures weren’t that racy. In fact I think I am wearing less on the shark special.
BLAST: There has been some speculation surrounding your relationship with one of your co-build team members Tory Belleci. Is there any relationship other than strictly a professional one?
KB: No. My husband was my boyfriend starting on the show. Tory and I never had any relationship other than a friendship. It’s more of a sibling relationship, we pick on each other a lot. I think the reason the show has been so successful is that we all have a natural chemistry. We weren’t cast, we are all just real people who have worked on screen before. All the boys worked either at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) or at Jamie’s shop and they all knew each other previous to this. It makes the day better.
BLAST: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?
KB: Don’t have time to waste time.
Kari has solved myths from duct tape cannons to a shark’s sense of smell. You can catch her on “Mythbusters” every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.