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Edward David Asner (November 15, 1929 - August 29, 2021), commonly known as Ed Asner, is an American film, television,
stage, and voice actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild, primarily known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-offseries, Lou Grant. In 2009, he starred as the voice of Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's award-winning animated film Up. In early 2011, Asner returned to television as butcher Hank Greziak in Working Class, the first original sitcom on cable channel CMT. He is currently starring in a Canadian television series Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays, on CBC Television.
Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri, His Russian-born parents, Lizzie (née Seliger, born 1885, died January 16, 1967), a housewife; and David Morris Asner(1877-May 19, 1957) ran a second-hand shop. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. Asner attended Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas, and the University of Chicago. He worked on the assembly line for General Motors. Asner served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and appeared in plays that toured Army camps in Europe.
Following his military service, Asner joined the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago, but left for New York City before members of that company regrouped as the Compass Players in the mid-1950s. He later made guest appearances with the successor to Compass, The Second City, and is considered part of The Second City extended family. In New York, Asner played Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum in the acclaimed Broadway revival of Threepenny Opera, and began to make inroads as a television actor.
Before he landed his role with Mary Tyler Moore, Asner guest-starred in such television series as the syndicated crime drama, Decoy, starring Beverly Garland, and the NBC western series, The Outlaws. He was also cast on Jack Lord's ABCdrama series, Stoney Burke and in the series finale of CBS's The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino. He also appeared onMr. Novak, Mission: Impossible, and The Invaders.
Asner is best known for his character Lou Grant, who was first introduced on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. In 1977, after the series, Asner's character was given his own show, Lou Grant (1977-82). In contrast to the Mary Tyler Moore show, a thirty-minute comedy, the Lou Grant show was an hour-long award-winning drama about journalism. (For his role as Grant, Asner is the only actor to win the Emmy award for a sitcom and a drama for the same role.) Other TV series starring Asner in regular roles include Thunder Alley, The Bronx Zoo and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He also portrayed art smuggler August March in an episode of the original Hawaii Five-O (1975) and reprised the role in the Hawaii Five-0 (2012) remake.
Asner was acclaimed for his role in the ABC miniseries Roots, as Captain Davies, the morally conflicted captain of the "Lord Ligonier", the slave ship that broughtKunta Kinte to America. That role earned Asner an Emmy Award, as did the similarly dark role of Axel Jordache in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man (1976). In contrast, he played a former Pontiff in the lead role of Papa Giovanni: Ioannes XXIII (Pope John XXIII 2002), an Italian miniseries for RAI.
Asner has also had an extensive voice acting career. He provided the voices for Joshua on Joshua and the Battle of Jericho (1986) for Hanna-Barbera, J. Jonah Jameson on the 1990s animated television series Spider-Man (1994-98); Hoggish Greedily on Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-95); Hudson on Gargoyles (1994-96); Jabba the Hutt on the radio version of Star Wars; Master Vrook from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel; Roland Daggett on Batman: The Animated Series (1992-94); Cosgrove on Freakazoid!; Ed Wuncler on The Boondocks(2005-10); and Granny Goodness in various DC Comics animated series.
Asner provided the voice of Carl Fredricksen in the Academy Award winning Pixar film Up (2009). He received great critical praise for the role, with one critic going so far as to suggest "They should create a new category for this year's Academy Award for Best Vocal Acting in an Animated Film and name Asner as the first recipient."
He has appeared in a recurring segment, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, entitled "Does This Impress Ed Asner?"
Asner has won more Emmy Awards for performing than any other male actor (seven, including five for the role of Lou Grant). In 2003, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
In July 2010, Asner completed recording sessions for Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders; which is a forthcoming documentary on the 1974 DeFeo murders in Amityville, New York. Asner serves as the narrator for the film, which covers a forensic analysis of the murders, the trial in which 23-year-old DeFeo son Ronald DeFeo Jr., was convicted of the killings, and the subsequent "haunting" story which is revealed to be a hoax.Also in 2010 Asner played the title role in "FDR", a stage production about the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt he has subsequently continued to tour the play throughout the country. In January 2011, Asner took a supporting role on CMT's first original sitcom Working Class. He made an appearance in the independent comedy feature Not Another B Movie, and had a small but pivotal role as billionaire Warren Buffett in HBO's 2011 economy drama Too Big to Fail .
Asner has also provided voice-over narration for many documentaries and films of social activism.
A member of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and Democratic Socialists of America, Asner served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, in which capacity during the 1980s he opposed US policy in Central America, working closely with the Alliance for Survival. He played a prominent role in the 1980 SAG strike. He has also been active in a variety of other causes, such as the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and the movement to establish single-payer health care in California, California One Care, for which he created a television advertisement. He endorsed Barack Obama during the United States presidential election, 2008.
The cancellation of Lou Grant in 1982 was the subject of much controversy. The show supposedly had ratings which would have justified its ongoing presence in primetime (it was in theACNielsen top ten throughout its final month on the air), but the CBS television network declined to renew it. Asner has consistently contended that the publicity surrounding his political views was the real cause for the cancellation.
Ed Asner endorsed progressive Democratic Candidate Marcy Winograd in the 2011 California 36th Congressional district special election.
Asner is a member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a free speech organization that is dedicated to protecting comic book creators and retailers from prosecutions based on content. He serves as an advisor to the Rosenberg Fund for Children, an organization founded by the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg which provides benefits for the children of political activists, and as a board member for the wildlife conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife.
Asner is also a member of the Honorary Board of Directors for the homeless respite service center Fresh Start WC in Walnut Creek, CA.
September 11 attacks
Asner signed a statement released by the organization 9/11 Truth in 2004 that calls for a new investigation into the September 11 attacks. A brief summary of the reasons for his position appears in a video available on YouTube. Asner confirmed his support for the statement in 2009. Asner also narrated the documentary film The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror.
Asner served as the spokesman for 2004 Racism Watch. In April 2004, he wrote an open letter to "peace and justice leaders" encouraging them to demand "full 9-11 truth" through the organization 9-11 Visibility Project.
Anti SAG/AFTRA merger
On March 30, 2012 the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) completed a merger of equals, forming a new union SAG-AFTRA. As a former SAG President Asner was adamantly opposed to such a merger, so he and fellow actors Martin Sheen, Ed Harris and Valerie Harper, as well as voice actors Michael Bell and Wendy Schaal, to name a few, filed a lawsuit against SAG President Ken Howard and several SAG Vice Presidents, seeking to have the merger overturned, and the two unions separated to their pre-merger organizations. The lawsuit is currently working its way through the court system.
Asner was married to Nancy Sykes from 1959 until 1988. Together they have three children: twins Matthew and Liza, and Kate. In 1987, he had a son named Charles with Carol Jean Vogelman. Asner is a parent and a grandparent of a child with autism and is deeply involved with the autism nonprofit Autism Speaks. He also serves on the advisory board of a suburban Chicago firm that employs persons with autistic spectrum disorders to test and program software.
Engaged to producer Cindy Gilmore in 1991, he married her on August 2, 1998. Gilmore filed for divorce on November 7, 2007. Model and television personality Jules Asner is his former daughter-in-law. Gavin Newsom, his ex-nephew-in-law, was a former mayor of San Francisco and is the current Lieutenant Governor of California.
On March 12, 2013, while performing in "FDR" at the Marquette Pavilion in Gary, Indiana, Asner began having trouble with his lines, and appeared to be disoriented, he was reportedly walked off stage by emergency medical personnel about 15 minutes into the performance. He was subsequently hospitalized in a Chicago-area hospital for exhaustion, and was released the following day. Commenting on his Twitter page Asner said "Reports of my imminent demise are greatly exaggerated, They tell me I am suffering from exhaustion. Thanks for the good wishes!" He is expected to return to his home in Los Angeles, and has postponed any further shows.