Ed Asner dies: Lou Grant and Up actor was 91

Legendary actor, activist, and philanthropist Ed Asner passed away quietly on Sunday morning while being cared for by his loved ones. He was 91.

Asner, a former leader of the Screen Actors Guild, achieved a rare achievement by portraying the same character in both a comedy and a drama series. He is most remembered for his work as Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Lou Grant.

He was one of only two performers to win a comedy and drama Emmy for the same part on successive shows, and he won three of his seven Emmys for portraying the character.

With his depiction of widower Carl Fredericksen in the 2009 animated film Up, which received an Oscar nomination for best picture, Asner won over a new generation of fans.

In the movie, Asner plays a jaded old man who, in an effort to grant his late wife’s dream for adventure, connects thousands of balloons to his home and flies it to South America.

Asner, who began his acting career in theatre and helped form the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago, a forerunner of The Second City, was born on November 15, 1929, in Kansas City. Alongside Jack Lemmon, he received his first Broadway part in the 1960 play Face of a Hero. In 1957, Asner made his television debut on the series Studio One.

Before landing his first Broadway role opposite Jack Lemmon in “Face of a Hero” in 1960, he began toying with comedic organisations like Second City. Around the same time, he made his television debut in an episode of the anthology series “Studio One.” He made notable cameos on series like “The Outer Limits” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” in the early 1960s, and in the Elvis Presley picture “Kid Galahad” in 1962, he made his film debut in an uncredited role.

In a reading of Jeff Cohen’s play The Soap Myth in 2016, Asner played the part of Holocaust survivor Milton Saltzman at New York’s Bruno Walter Theatre in Lincoln Centre. He performed the play for the next three years in several American towns before the coronavirus outbreak ended the tour.

Following his emergence as a leader during the 1980 SAG strike, Asner served as SAG president from 1981 until 1985. He opposed US policy in Central America while serving as president of SAG. Asner has always been a Democrat, and during his decades of political involvement, he has also supported the campaigns to liberate Mumia Abu-Jamal and to establish California One Care, a single-payer health insurance programme.

The Ed Asner Family Centre offers counselling services, support groups, enrichment programmes, and camps to people with special needs and their families. It was established in 2017 by Asner’s son Matt Asner and daughter-in-law Navah Paskowitz Asner.

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