Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant in two hit shows, dies aged 91

Lou Grant actor and ‘beloved patriarch’ Ed Asner dies aged 91

Ed Asner, a burly and prolific character actor who became a star in middle age as the gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later in the drama Lou Grant, died on Sunday. He was 91.

Asner’s representative confirmed the actor’s death in an email.

Asner’s official Twitter account included a note from his children: “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.”

Built like the American football lineman he once was, the balding Asner was a journeyman actor in films and TV when he was hired in 1970 to play Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The part brought three best supporting actor Emmys and two best actor awards. He also won Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1975-76) and Roots (1976-77).

Nonetheless, Asner said interesting roles were hard to come by.

“I never get enough work,” he said in 2009. “It’s the history of my career. There just isn’t anything to turn down, let me put it that way. I’d say most people are probably in that same boat, old people, and it’s a shame.”

Asner, born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1929, almost became a newsman in real life. He studied journalism at the University of Chicago until a professor told him there was little money to be made in the profession. He quickly switched to drama, debuting as the martyred Thomas Becket in a campus production of TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.

He dropped out of school, going to work as a taxi driver and other jobs before being drafted in 1951. He served with the army signal corps in France.

Returning to Chicago, he appeared at the Playwrights Theatre Club and Second City, the famed satire troupe that launched the careers of dozens of top comedians. Later, in New York, he joined the long-running The Threepenny Opera and appeared opposite Jack Lemmon in Face of a Hero.

Arriving in Hollywood in 1961 for an episode of television’s Naked City, Asner decided to stay and appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, including the film El Dorado, opposite John Wayne, and the Elvis Presley vehicles Kid Galahad and Change of Habit. He was a regular in the 1960s political drama series Slattery’s People.

He was married twice, to Nancy Lou Sykes and Cindy Gilmore, and had four children, Matthew, Liza, Kate and Charles.


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