Ed Asner, a TV icon for his performances on Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant, died Sunday at his home Sunday. He was 91.
His family announced his death on Twitter, writing, "We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head — Goodnight dad. We love you."
Asner's work on TV led to him being the most award-winning male actor in the history of the Emmys. Among his seven wins, he won an incredible five times for his portrayal of grumpy grouch (with a heart of gold) Lou Grant. By winning for both Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant, he was TV's first actor to win Emmys for playing the same character in two genres. (Uzo Aduba has since become the first woman to do so.)
Asner's is the latest among Mary Tyler Moore's main cast — Ted Knight died in 1986, and more recently, Moore died in 2017, Georgia Engel and Valerie Harper in 2019, and Cloris Leachman and Gavin MacLeod this year.
With Asner's death, Betty White — who turns 100 in January — is the sole surviving main cast member from the series.
Asner was also an effective president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981-1985.
Born November 15, 1929, in Kansas City, Missouri, Asner attended the University of Chicago, served in the military, then co-founded the influential Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago.
He made his New York debut in the '50s and his Broadway debut opposite Jack Lemmon in 1960's Face of a Hero.
Asner worked on TV beginning in 1957, appearing on innumerable early TV dramas and on series like Naked City (1961), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1962), Route 66 (1960-1962), The Untouchables (1962-1963), Dr. Kildare (1962-1963), The Outer Limits (1963), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1965) and many more.
He made his film debut opposite Elvis Presley in 1962's Kid Galahad, going on to appear in such features as The Venetian Affair (1966), They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970), Gus (1976), Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), Daniel (1973), JFK (1991) and Elf (2003).
In 1970, Asner won the role of hard-nosed WJM-TV news producer Lou Grant — a barrel-chested man who did not suffer "spunk" gladly — on Mary Tyler Moore. He won the part thanks to his tough turn in the then-unreleased TV film They Call It Murder (1971). MTM's run lasted through 1977. He then recreated the performance in the dramatic Lou Grant (1977-1982), reviving Lou on episodes of Rhoda (1974) and Roseanne (1996).
Along with his five Emmy wins as Lou, Asner also won for his searing work in the blockbuster miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976), as an embittered immigrant, and Roots (1977), in which he played the captain who brought Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) to the Americas.
He was also remembered for his work in the cult-classic TV movie The Girl Most Likely To ... (1973), written by Joan Rivers and gamely participated in the Battle of the Network Stars event in 1979.
Later in his prolific and storied career, Asner voiced retiree Carl Fredricksen in the Best Picture Oscar nominee Up (2009). His career momentum was such that with over 400 performances under his name on IMDb, he still had at least a dozen unreleased projects likely to be released between now and 2023.
Asner received a SAG Life Achievement Award in 2002.
Asner was married to Nancy Lou Sykes from 1959-1988, but they divorced.
He is survived by his four children and 10 grandchildren.