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Ed Asner, Seven-Time Emmy Winner and TV's Lou Grant, Dies at 91

The Broadway veteran was last seen on the New York stage in Craig Wright's 2012 play Grace.

Ed Asner has died at the age of 91
(© David Gordon)

Edward Asner, the legendary seven-time Emmy-winning actor, has died at the age of 91.

Born in Kansas City, MO, and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, Asner began his acting career while a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, appearing in plays that toured camps throughout Europe. He moved to New York City in the 1950s to pursue an acting career, making his Broadway debut as Peachum in the 1955 revival of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera at Christopher Street's Theatre de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel). In 1960, he starred in the short-lived Broadway play, Face of a Hero.

In 1970, following a series of guest spots on television shows including The Outlaws and Mission: Impossible, Asner landed the role of television producer Lou Grant on the sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When that series went off the air in 1977, he was given a spin-off, the hour-long drama Lou Grant. Asner received five Emmys for his performance as that character and, in doing so, became the only actor to win the Emmy for the same role in both a sitcom and a drama. (He also received an Emmy Award for his performance as Captain Davis in the acclaimed miniseries Roots and another for a guest appearance on the series Rich Man, Poor Man).

Asner has worked extensively in television and film, also appearing in guest spots on The Practice, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, Curb Your Enthusiasm, CSI: NY, Hawaii Five-O, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, to name a few. On the silver screen, he has appeared as Santa Claus in the comedy Elf and Guy Banister in Oliver Stone's JFK. He also voiced for the role of cantankerous Carl Fredricksen in the acclaimed Pixar film Up. Asner returned to Broadway in a 1989 revival of the Garson Kanin comedy Born Yesterday, and frequently toured the country as former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the bio-play FDR, based on the play Sunrise at Campobello.

A longtime political and social activist, Asner served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild. He was also a member of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Asner was an advisor to the Rosenberg Fund for Children and a board member of the Defenders of Wildlife organization.

After an absence of over two decades, Asner returned to Broadway in October 2012 to play Karl, a good-natured German insect exterminator in Craig Wright's Grace, opposite Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon, and Kate Arrington. In an interview with TheaterMania, he described what the Broadway — and general entertainment industry experience — was like decades after his career got started:

"I find that there are a lot of leaks in the dike now. Cheap is the answer and it's not just here, it's the same wherever you are in showbiz, film or stage. Cheap is the executive word. Frailty is what exists everywhere. Keep the juggernaut going no matter what, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. And I suppose behind that is the idea of fear. There is a lot more fear now in the business. Years ago, I said 'Who gives a f**k? I'll stay in my bailiwick and I'll cut my piece of cheese.' There seems to be a lot more fear now about even getting your piece of cheese. Also, when I started out, you had to apologize for being an actor. Now, with the conditions of society, the field is so filled with actors and wannabes that it must be one of the leading occupations."

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel," Asner family said in a tweet from his account. "With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you."


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