Happy Birthday

ed asner, lou grant
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Happy Birthday, Ed Asner, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s” Lou Grant

November 15, 2009
by Caleb March
Actor and political activist Ed Asner has earned critical acclaim both on Broadway and in Hollywood. He is best known for his Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning role as Lou Grant, the newsroom boss on the 1970s TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Ed Asner's Early Days

Yitzak Edward Asner was born November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Kansas. Asner’s childhood was often defined by the discrimination he faced as a Jew in a predominantly gentile neighborhood. Asner became a football star in high school, and began performing publicly on the high school radio station. In 1947, Asner enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he became part of the school’s drama community. From 1951 to 1953, Asner served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. After the army, Asner returned to acting in Chicago at the Playwrights’ Theater Club before leaving for New York City in 1955. In 1959, Asner married Nancy Lou Sikes. In New York, Asner worked in several off-Broadway productions and bit roles on television before landing his first Broadway role in 1960 with Jack Lemmon in “Face of a Hero.”

Asner's Notable Accomplishments

Shortly after “Face of a Hero,” Asner moved to Hollywood where he earned a reputation as a go-to villain for television. Asner was cast as a regular on the CBS television series Slattery’s People, a political drama starring Richard Crenna, but his big break didn’t come until 1970, when he was cast in his most famous role, Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” For the next seven years, Asner enjoyed success and fame in his comedic role as a fictional newsroom boss, winning three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. Asner also earned accolades for his roles on the television series “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976) and “Roots” (1977).

Asner’s interest in politics began to grow, and in 1980, he took an active role during a strike by the Screen Actor’s Guild. In 1981, Asner was elected president of SAG and became an outspoken advocate of labor rights. His public denouncements of U.S. involvement in Latin America drew anger from Charlton Heston and other conservative SAG members.

During this period, he appeared in “Fort Apache, The Bronx” (1980), and starred in the Mary Tyler Moore Show spinoff series, Lou Grant (1977–1982). Asner has accused CBS of canceling Lou Grant because of his outspokenness on political issues.

The Rest of the Story

Asner has continued to divide his life between acting and political activism throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He has publicly protested the death sentence of Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal and is an avid supporter of Fidel Castro. More recently, Asner has been an active critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. He has accused the U.S. government of knowing that the World Trade Center terrorist attacks were coming, but doing nothing to stop them. Of his political activism, Asner has said, “When I see … [America’s] principles being betrayed, my sense of outrage is so difficult to control, so I have to do things, say things that I hope can affect or alert or change others.”

Asner has won seven Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards in his lifetime and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He currently lives in Hollywood and is separated from his second wife, Cindy Gilmore.

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