Ed Asner of 'Mary Tyler Moore,' 'Lou Grant' Dies at 91
TV icon Ed Asner — seen above in 2017 with co-star Valerie Harper — died Sunday peacefully at his home Sunday at 91, Yahoo! Entertainment reports.
His family announced on Twitter, "We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head — Goodnight dad. We love you."
Asner was the most award-winning male actor in the history of the Emmys, with seven trophies. He won five times for his portrayal of the character Lou Grant on both "Mary Tyler Moore," a comedy, and "Lou Grant," a drama, making him the first performer to win Emmys for playing the same character in two genres.
Asner's passing follows a spate of recent deaths among "Mary Tyler Moore's" iconic cast — Moore in 2017, Georgia Engel and Valerie Harper in 2019, and Cloris Leachman and Gavin MacLeod this year. With his death, 99-year-old Betty White is the last surviving main cast member from the series, as she is from "The Golden Girls."
Asner is also fondly remembered as a liberal lion and former president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981-1985.
Asner was born on November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri. Following studies at the University of Chicago and military service, he co-founded the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago, and made his New York debut in the '50s. His Broadway debut came opposite Jack Lemmon in 1960's "Face of a Hero."
In the meantime, Asner was working on TV from 1957. He appeared in numerous early TV dramas and on such series as "Naked City" (1961), "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1962), "Route 66" (1960-1962), "The Untouchables" (1962-1963), "Dr. Kildare" (1962-1963), "The Outer Limits" (1963), "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1965), and many more.
His introduction to movie acting was opposite no less than icon Elvis Presley in 1962's "Kid Galahad."
In 1970, Asner originated the role of hard-nosed WJM-TV news producer Lou Grant — a grump who did not suffer "spunk" gladly — on "Mary Tyler Moore," playing the character through the show's 1977 finale. He recreated the performance in the dramatic "Lou Grant" (1977-1982), and also played Lou on episodes of "Rhoda" (1974) and "Roseanne" (1996).
Asner also won Emmys for his work in the blockbuster miniseries "Rich Man, Poor Man" (1976) and "Roots" (1977), and also appeared in the cult-classic TV movie "The Girl Most Likely to..." (1973), which was written by Joan Rivers.
In film, he appeared in features including "The Venetian Affair" (1966), "They Call Me Mister Tibbs!" (1970), "Gus" (1976), "Fort Apache the Bronx" (1981), "Daniel" (1973), "JFK" (1991), and "Elf" (2003).
Later in his prolific career, Asner voiced retiree Carl Fredricksen in the Best Picture Oscar nominee "Up" (2009).
Among his many honors, Asner received a SAG Life Achievement Award in 2002.
Asner, who was married to Nancy Lou Sykes from 1959-1988, is survived by his four children and 10 grandchildren.
The late actor was remembered warmly on social media by his peers:
Oh Ed Asner Rest In Peace and power friend. what a truly good and honorable human you were .gratitude for all you did for the screen Actors Guild ,when it was a true Union bless you. @Frances_Fisher@EllenBarkin
Heartbroken to have to say goodbye to legend and friend Ed Asner. He was always so kind to me and brought so much joy to this world. Sending love to @masner, friends and family. 💔 https://t.co/l4yDtLf7Hz