Mythbusters Interview: Kari Returns, With A Vengeance

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Tonight’s a big night in Mythbusters land. Kari Byron returns from maternity leave, and gets to play with some seriously big rifles (see above). It’s quite the sight to behold – the new mother, wielding her little friend so enthusiastically. Then again, that’s why we love her: She’s always up for some serious firepower and eye-popping explosives.

That said, I’m not entirely certain if tonight’s episode can match the blue slushee projectiles of last week’s season premiere. That was epic slow-mo footage of 60 mph mayhem. Still, it’s nice to see the team fully reunited. We sat down with Kari to talk about her triumphant return, her temporary absence and what it’s like to balance motherhood with mythbusting.

Is it odd to come back into the fray? Hard at all to experiment when you know there’s a child waiting back at home?

Oh, I’m really stoked to be back. I loved being on maternity leavel, but to come back and get into the swing of things again just feels right.

Is it hard though, to don both hats at the same time? What’s more challenging now: Your experiments on the set, or the challenges of a baby?

You know, who would have thought, that with all the stuff we do on Mythbusters that raising a child would have more crazy stuff. Guns and explosions, that’s the easy stuff, but how to get a child to go down for nap time…I can take all of my troubleshooting and problem-solving skills from the show and apply it all directly to her. (More at Techland: The National Rube Goldberg Competition)

Oh, really? Break it down for me: The baby’s crying, how do you troubleshoot the situation?

Okay, well statistically speaking, it probably means there is one of four things wrong the infant: Food, gas, sleep or diaper. So you narrow it down from the easiest to the hardest, and keep applying the scientific method as you analyze, what should the next step be?

Surely, though, it’s not all strict science. Is there anything that’s surprised you most, about the little one? Something that the stats and probabilities don’t prepare you for?

You know, I never really thought about it. She has such a complex sense of humor, she’s really quite funny. Stella Ruby likes to imitate mommy talk, and does things like stick the pacifier in my mouth an then laughs hysterically. And I’m sitting there, and I’m like: Wait a minute, was that a baby joke? She just laughs hysterically, and I think she knows what’s going on.

Clearly there are a lot of people psyched to see you back – you have a fan site, and there’s all the chatter among Mythbusters fans. What is it about this show, do you think, that’s kept fans so happy through the years? What is it about Mythbusters?

You know, I think it’s that there’s so much fun stuff going on. You’re get up to work on a Monday, and you’re doing completely different things. You’re shooting a .50 caliber and then the next day you’re finding out whether plants think for themselves. It’s constantly changing and I think people who watch the show really appreciate the kind of ever-changing beast that it is. (More at Techland: Toy Story 3 – The New Toys Gallery)

Does it start to feel normal for you though – you have this wild job, but does it ever start to become the routine?

Oh, I don’t really take it for granted. People say ‘You have the best job ever,’ and I say, ‘You’re right, I do.’ I might get a little blase about big explosions, ight not scream as much as I used to. You know, I’ve seen C-4 before, so give me some gasoline! But no, I don’t take it for granted.

What can people expect tonight, as you get back into action?

Oh, it’s such a good myth. We originally got it from our fan site and it’s: Can you use phone books to bullet proof a car? Say you can’t afford ballistic shielding, could you just use phone books instead. Now initially it sounds so absurd and ridiculous, but you know, a bullet does have to slow down when it hits something, so maybe it’s not as crazy as it sounds. So we set out to figure out how many phone books it would take, and we start with our different kinds of guns and we get to play with cars and go to a crazy location. And I’m not going to ruin the ending, but just wait until you see this monster gun I get to use.

With scenes like that, I think it all comes down to the chemistry of the crew. That’s the reason I think this show is so fun, you guys just seem to love experimenting and putting theories to the test…

We all came to this show not as actors but as this sort of odd group of characters who are inherently curious and like to problem solve. My niche on the show is probably that I think of things in a different way. We have the practical-logical people. But then there’s me, who comes from a more artistic background, and while others are thinking of building a logical robot to deal with a situation, I’m the one who thinks: Why don’t we just poke it with a stick? I come at things from a different perspective, maybe it’s sort of a right-brain-left-brain thing.

But I think the show works because it’s fun to watch people having fun. And none of us are scientists, we’re approaching things in an everyday kind of way and using the same sort of ingenuity that our viewers would use. So it’s relatable and people can watch it with their family. We’re not the Britney Spears sort of role models; we’re people your parents would actually want you to be.

So what’s your favorite Mythbusters moment? What’s the most fun you’ve ever had?

My very very favorite is the duct tape episode, and we did duct tape 2 and it was really fun. People just love that stuff, and it’s pretty fun to be testing it out ourselves. I keep it in my glove box; my sister kind of accidentally pulled the bumper off her car during a road trip and I was like boom! We’ve got the duct tape it’s all you need!

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