Ed Asner passed away this morning at the age of 91. I remember enjoying his portrayal of Mary Richards’ gruff newsroom boss Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show when I was a kid. Then he played the same role, with more drama than comedy, in his own show, Lou Grant, after the character was fired from his television job and became a newspaper editor in Los Angeles.
I loved Lou Grant. I wanted to be a journalist and was fascinated by the world of newspapers. In fact, that show was one of the main reasons I bought myself a television when I was 16. I remember being tired of having to watch whatever the rest of my family was watching in the living room. In particular, I wanted to watch Lou Grant. It was one of my favorite programs, but I was often overruled by my parents and sisters, who wanted to watch something else in that time slot. I took $99 of my babysitting money and bought an 11-inch black and white Zenith. It wasn’t fancy, but it did the job. And it lasted for more than 20 years, working perfectly until it finally died.
My other favorite role of Asner’s was one in which we never actually saw him. He did the voice of crotchety Carl Fredricksen in the animated film Up. That was a brilliant movie, my favorite of the Pixars. It was funny, sad, and intelligent, and he was the perfect choice to voice the stubborn old man.
Asner did more than act. He was a two-term president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, a liberal activist for many causes through the years, and an advocate for autistic children.
Two weeks ago, he was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter about his career and current events.