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Ed Asner, acclaimed ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ actor, dies at 91

By Todd Leopold, CNN

Ed Asner, who rose to fame as the crusty but lovable newsman Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died Sunday morning, his publicist confirmed to CNN. He was 91.

Asner was was surrounded by family in Los Angeles, publicist Charles Sherman said.

The news was also shared in a post on Asner’s official Twitter account.

“We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully,” the post read.

“Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you.”

Asner, a veteran of Chicago’s comedy theater scene — he was part of the Compass Players, a predecessor to Second City — was a noted character actor before landing the role of WJM-TV news director Grant in “Mary Tyler Moore,” which premiered in 1970. Originally portrayed as gruff and snappish, with his tie forever unknotted and a bottle of whiskey at the ready, his character mellowed over the show’s seven-year run to become a fan favorite.

The character was spun off into his own series, “Lou Grant,” a one-hour drama that ran from 1977 to 1982.

Asner won five of his seven Emmy Awards for playing Grant, three as best supporting actor in a comedy series for “Mary Tyler Moore” and two for lead actor in a drama for “Lou Grant.” He also won Emmys for his work in the 1976 mini-series “Rich Man, Poor Man” and the 1977 miniseries “Roots.”

After “Lou Grant” was canceled, Asner continued to work prolifically in movies and television, popping up in such series as “Modern Family,” “ER,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The X-Files,” “The Good Wife,” “Grace and Frankie,” “Hot in Cleveland” and “Cobra Kai.” The stocky actor played Santa Claus more than once, perhaps most notably in the film “Elf” (2003).

Asner won fans among a new generation of moviegoers when he gave voice to the bespectacled widower and retired balloon salesman Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s 2009 heartwarming film, “Up.”

The child of Orthodox Jewish immigrants, Asner was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He first became interested in performing through a weekly radio program produced by his high school. He served in the military before landing in Chicago, performed on Broadway and later headed to California.

Asner was never shy about airing his liberal political opinions. He headed the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985, regularly contributed to Democratic candidates and liberal causes and seldom shied from a debate. In 2012, he lent his voice to a short animated film about the causes of the financial crisis.

Asner was married twice and is survived by four children.

He had more than a dozen credits on upcoming projects, with some in post-production listed on his IMDb page at the time of his death.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Asner talked about his career, shared his thoughts on the upcoming California recall and showcased his humor when asked how old he felt.

“If it weren’t for my bad left leg, I would feel younger,” Asner told the publication. “I’ve got many parts that need to be bolstered and refurbished. And I haven’t got time to undergo all those changes.”

This story has been corrected to described Asner’s “Up” character as bespectacled.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Stella Chan contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Entertainment

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