LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Ed Asner, a comedic actor best known for his turn as the irascible but fatherly news director Lou Grant on the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died on Sunday. He was 91.
Asner’s family announced his passing via a tweet on the actor’s official social media, writing: “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.”
A native of Kansas City, Asner studied journalism at the University of Chicago before switching to drama, appearing in a campus production of T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” in the role of Thomas Becket.
Following military service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Asner helped to found the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago, which later became the Compass Players and eventually, the famed comedic theater group Second City.
Asner’s first Broadway role came when he was cast, along with Jack Lemmon in Face of a Hero in Face of a Hero. His early television roles included The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Decoy and Route 66.
In 1970, Asner landed what would become a career defining role when he was cast as the curmudgeonly news director Lou Grant in the CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Asner later reprised the role on other shows, the Lou Grant show, which unlike the Mary Tyler Moore Show, was an hour-long drama that ran for five years on CBS. He also appeared as Lou Grant on other sitcoms, including Rhoda, which was also a spin-off from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Roseann.
In addition to his live roles, Asner was a successful voice actor, lending his distinctive voice to shows such as J. Jonah Jameson on the 1990s animated television series Spider-Man and the animated Pixar film Up.
Asner was also an outspoken political activist and served two terms as President of the Screen Actors Guild, leading the organization’s opposition to American foreign policy in Central America in the mid 1980s and playing a key role in the 1980 SAG strike.
He was a member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and was a member of the DSOC’s successor, the Democratic Socialists of America. Asner maintained that his activism played a role in the cancellation of Lou Grant in 1982.
Asner was married to Nancy Sykes from 1959 to 1988. They had three children: twins Matthew and Liza, and Kate. In 1987, he had a son named Charles with Carol Jean Vogelman. Asner married producer Cindy Gilmore in 1998, but the couple divorced in 2015.