R.I.P. Ed Asner, TV legend, star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant

He held the record for the most Emmy awards of any male performer and shaped Chicago's improv scene. He was 91.

Read to Me

Ed Asner, the entertainment icon known by millions as Lou Grant of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its successful spinoff, Lou Grant, passed peacefully in his home on Sunday, August 29, 2021. He was 91 years old.

"You've got spunk." That's what Asner as Lou Grant tells Mary Richards when she walks into his office to interview for a job that he's already filled on the first episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. "I hate spunk," he says, when Mary foolishly takes the comment for a good thing. Of course, he hires Mary anyway, for a job he "wanted a man for," and that began one of TV history's best workplace friendships of all time.

But before he met Mary Tyler Moore in a sitcom that would shape the landscape of TV, he was already making changes in Chicago's entertainment industry that would last for decades. Chicago has a legendary improv comedy scene that has produced many of today's top comedians. Asner was one of the first performers to come from what would become the Second City. After serving in the military, Asner joined the Playwrights Theatre Club. The group eventually turned into the Compass Players, which later morphed into The Second City.

While Lou Grant was skeptical about hiring Mary, it was Mary Tyler Moore who would hand-pick Asner for the role that would rocket him into TV legends. "I read as I thought they wanted to hear me read, and they laughed and said the appropriate 'Thank you, we’ll be in touch,'" Asner said. "From what I heard, after I left, Mary turned to them and, with a tremendously screwed-up face, said, 'Are you sure?' I don’t blame her for asking the question that way, because it was a meshuggeneh reading. The producers then said to her, 'That’s your Lou Grant.'"

Asner would go on to have the rare honor of being the only actor to win a comedy and drama Primetime Emmy as the same role, which he picked up as Lou Grant. Furthermore, he would become the most awarded male performer in Emmy history with seven wins, five of them being for his role as Grant.

Younger generations might know Asner better as his emotional voice acting role of Carl Fredricksen in the Oscar-winning animaed movie, Up. Additionally, he joined the ranks of holiday movie classics when he appeared as Santa Claus in the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, Elf. This was only one of five times he donned the red suit; he also wore it on an episode of Highway to Heaven (1986), The Story of Santa Claus (1996), Olive, the Other Reindeer (1999), and The Ellen Show (2001).

In 2001, he was awarded the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Acheivement Award.

His legacy will live on with The Ed Asner Family Center, launched in 2017 by Asner’s son, Matt Asner, and daughter-in-law Navah Paskowitz Asner. The center provides counseling services, support groups, enrichment programs and camps to special needs individuals and their families.

 
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musicman37 23 days ago
My favorite Ed Asner role was as Detective Ralph Varone, who falls in love with Miriam Knight in "The Girl Most Likely To...".
saswifteagle 23 days ago
Great actor! Rich Man Poor Man, Roots, Mary Tyler Moore, Lou Grant and Elf. President of the Screen Actors Guild. Heaven received a great star!
tsgabel 23 days ago
I LIKED Ed Asner's performances. He was alway genuine and he could portray a great curmudgeon. My favorite of his performances other than in the MTM show was his part in "The Gathering". It was sad, yet heartwarming. In addition to Asner, all of the actors in this movie were superb; Gail Strickland, Bruce Davison, Veronica Hamel, Maureen Stapleton (a brilliant actress), Larry Pressman, Gregory Harrison and many more.
He will be missed.
RIP Mr. Asner
moax429 23 days ago
I forgot!

Ed Asner was also in the classic 1977 TV movie "The Gathering," co-starring Maureen Stapleton and also Rebecca Balding, who was also on "Lou Grant" (she played one of Asner's daughters in "The Gathering").

Glad I found the DVD of "The Gathering." I watch that every Christmas season now.

Again - Rest in peace, Ed Asner!
paulat0805 24 days ago
Great actor, great human being. RIP Ed Asner
JHP 24 days ago
will have tonight - a coffee cup with bourbon in honor of him 2night

25 days ago
He was unforgettable as Lou Grant and in a somber Christmas movie, called "The Gathering." (He also played a policeman in a forgettable Elvis movie) "Great actor, great life!"
moax429 Pilaf 23 days ago
That movie was "Fort Apache, the Bronx" from 1980. It failed.
teire 25 days ago
He was best as Lou Grant (both shows) but also great in everything else he did, right up to his very recent most recent appearances. Thanking him and missing him.
joeyjoejoe 25 days ago
Asner was the classic grouch as Lou grant .Loved it.As a high school actor I use to
Try and do him in my characters
joeyjoejoe 25 days ago
I was in grammar school 2nd grade when marytylermoore began .I watched with my parents .As a adult I bought seasons 1-3 on dvd.Bob Newhart too. I love those people and it hurts me that are gone .I have so many nice memories of those days

PeterGuerin 25 days ago
It should be pointed out that Asner voiced J. Jonah Jameson in the 1990s Spider-Man animated series, which proves that if you can play one cranky newsman, you can play them all. All kidding aside, though, RIP Ed Asner.
Barry22 25 days ago
RIP. Always liked him on MTM, and on Lou Grant. He also did voiceovers on animated shows like Superman , and Captain Planet.
LoveMETV22 25 days ago
Googled The Ed Asner Family Center. Good read and a worthwhile cause.
stephaniestavr5 25 days ago
And now there is one. (Anybody know what I mean by this remark?)
Goodbye Mr. Grant. I will be watching you today at 11:00 a.m. pst.
I can see now Mr. Lou Grant's (I like to feel like I'm related to him, somehow. Grant is my mother's maiden name.) epitaph: "You've got spunk. I hate spunk!" R.I.P. Lou Grant, and the gentleman who brought him to life, Ed Asner.
I want to correct what I've said. It has come to my attention, (which I have addressed in a couple of comments below,) that Betty White isn't the sole survivor.
I also will add Bess is listed as a Main character on one bio and Recurring on another bio. So it's just a matter of semantics. So both characters are still surviving.
Michael LoveMETV22 25 days ago
Lisa was of course the youngest cast member.

And you can't mention her without mentioning "My World and Welcome to It".

Her career didn't last long, too bad, but she was on a number of "classic MeTV shows"
Lantern Michael 24 days ago
I've often wondered what happened to Lisa Gerritsen - evidently she's no longer in show business? The last I remember seeing her was on the MTM spin-off "Phyllis", then she just seemed to disappear.
John Amos, who played sportscaster Gordy, and Joyce Bulifant, who portrayed Marie Slaughter, are also still alive.
Michael 25 days ago
Actually, Ed was in "Christmas Star" in 1986, playing a guy who dresses as Santa Claus. He almost got type cast.
CoreyC 25 days ago
Betty White is the sole survivor of two shows now. RIP Ed Asner. He also played the slave ship Captain on Roots.
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No need to apologize, What I posted is what the bios (Wikipedia, IMDb) say about the character. I didn't assign their status. I'm not trying to split hairs with anyone not my style. They were all great characters and they all made significant contributions to the show.
CoreyC LoveMETV22 25 days ago
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was an ensemble cast and had a bunch of other actors and actresses but Betty White Sue Ann Nivens had a major impact on the show. There was other minor characters such as John Amos, Joyce Bullifant but weren't on a lot of episodes.
This is correct.
Pacificsun Pacificsun 25 days ago
File under more than anyone ever wanted to know. Except the discussion was already initiated:

Descriptions are used for the purpose of billing, which equals compensation (and prestige = influence). IF a series has only a single Lead (which is arguable) in addition to the "Star" billing in that way, there can be a designation of "Also Starring" of which ST:TOS (All Our Yesterdays) is an example. Functionally speaking the actors, in addition to their billing status, still support one another, working as an ensemble cast, or the series would only be about "Kirk" which it isn't. Same for MASH.

MTM, as did Cheers functioned as ensemble productions. MTM so admitted in an interview, being more than happy to share the spotlight with her fellow talent. Screen time is relative, to story lines and availability but doesn't devalue an actor's contribution/placement. Just how the stories are written, and the purpose they play. While Pickles in DVD is a different example, most wives as discussed eventually appear.

Anthologies work differently. Often in Alfred Hitchcock or Twilight Zone there can be a single Star billing, and the additional actors are truly for background. So the difference is whether recurring or incidental appearances.

(We've gone over this topic before. Billing is complicated).
Michael 26 days ago
I saw "Lou Grant" in reruns, I liked the character better there than on Mary Tyler Moore show.

Lou Grant would fit MeTV, about the same vintage as Rockford (pr Lomgstreet, or Harry O)
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LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 25 days ago
Yes that was the page I was on. Very nice of you to post that for anyone who's interested.
CoreyC stephaniestavr5 25 days ago
At the time CBS was considered a conservative network.
CoreyC 25 days ago
Boy, how things have changed! And not for the better!
moax429 Pacificsun 25 days ago
Since Disney/ABC bought out the film division of 20th Century Fox in 2019, the tv division has been renamed 20th Television.

"Lou Grant" is also on DVD from Shout! Factory.

RIP, Ed Asner.
Pacificsun 26 days ago
Winner Hall of Fame 96
Winner Lead Actor, Drama, LG, 79, 78
Winner Single Performance, Supporting, Roots, 77
Winner Lead Single Appearance, Drama, Rich Man, Poor Man, 76
Winner, Outstanding Continuous Performance, Supporting, MTM, Comedy, 75, 72, 71

Except for Roots, he was so much himself in the roles, yet, convincing, effective characters, Comedy or Drama, Single Appearance, Leading or Supporting. Just the Wins alone (plus many nominations) so consistently awarded is really something.
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justjeff 25 days ago
There are always some people who troll and belittle people when they are safe behind a keyboard and feel smug spouting their hateful words. Don't allow them the 'courtesy' of a response, because you embolden them. Just remember the old saying: 'never argue with a fool, for then you can't tell the difference'. There are more civil ways to say you did not care for an individual rather than celebrating their death or personal views...
harlow1313 25 days ago
Oh, I enjoy doing it. I have nothing to win and nothing to lose.

I think there are some deaths we might quietly and rightly (sort of) celebrate, but certainly not Ed Asner.
tsgabel 23 days ago
Well said.
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