Facts about Ed Asner
Ed Asner Biography
Ed Asner won five Emmy awards for portraying the character news editor Lou Grant, both as Mary Tyler Moore‘s boss in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), and as a crusading newspaperman in the spin-off series Lou Grant (1977-1982).
Ed Asner was born in Kansas City to parents who were Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe; his father ran a junk yard. He began acting while attending the University of Chicago from 1947-1949, eventually dropping out of the school to appear in local theaters. He then served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, being stationed in New Jersey and France during the Korean War.
By the 1960s, Ed Asner was a regular guest star on TV dramas like Route 66, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits, and The Mod Squad. His big break came in 1970, when he was cast in the sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. His character, Lou Grant, was both an exasperated TV newsroom editor and a (somewhat) kindly father figure to Moore. When the show ended in 1977 after six celebrated seasons, Asner immediately took the lead in a spinoff show, Lou Grant, playing the same character but now in a drama. (In the character’s history, Grant moved to Los Angeles to return to newspaper work after losing his job at the TV newsroom.)
An unlikely leading man, Ed Asner had a rumpled appearance, rumpled face, and balding dome. His characters were invariably described as “gruff” or “crusty,” and he played to those adjectives with great success, but his real talent lay in exposing the caring heart underneath.
His career had a big resurgence early in the 21st century, when he played Santa Claus in the hit 2010 comedy Elf (2003, with Will Ferrell) and voiced the adventurous old man Carl Fredricksen in the hit animated film Up (2010). He kept acting up until his death, even doing guest shots on the TV hits Modern Family and Blue Bloods in 2020.
For decades, Ed Asner was also a celebrity activist for progressive causes, especially in the anti-war movement. During the 1980s he took on the administration of President Ronald Reagan and earned the enmity of conservative Americans, most notably his fellow actor (and NRA activist) Charlton Heston. During the administration of George W. Bush, Asner was a prominent opponent of war with Iraq.
By the end of his career, Ed Asner had won seven Emmys, the most ever for any male actor. He was given a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2001, and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1992; it’s in the 6300 block of Hollywood Boulevard. In his later years, Asner was a popular presence on Twitter, gathering 168,000 followers before his death in 2021.
Ed Asner was married twice: to Nancy Sykes (from 1959 until their divorce in 1988) and to Cindy Gilmore (from 1998 until their divorce in 2015). With Sykes he had three children: twins named Liza and Matthew, and a daughter, Kathryn “Kate” Asner, who became an actress. Ed Asner also had a son, Charles, born to Carol Jean Vogelman in 1987… Ed Asner’s birth name was Eddie, not Edward. In 2021 he told The Hollywood Reporter, “My parents were Orthodox Jews. If you were religious, you were given a Hebrew name. My Hebrew name was Yitzhak, which is Isaac, and it was transliterated into Eddie.”