Ed Asner

Ed Asner

Asner circa 1985, age 56
President of the Screen Actors Guild
In office
November 3, 1981  June 20, 1985
Preceded by William Schallert
Succeeded by Patty Duke
Personal details
Born Yitzhak Edward Asner[1]
(1929-11-15) November 15, 1929
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.[2]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Nancy Sykes (m. 1959; div. 1988)
Cindy Gilmore (m. 1998; separated 2007)
Children 4
Education Wyandotte High School
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Actor, voice actor, political activist

Yitzhak Edward "Ed" Asner[1] (born November 15, 1929) is an American actor, voice actor and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild. He is primarily known for his role as Lou Grant during the 1970s and early 1980s, on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series Lou Grant, making him one of the few television actors to portray the same leading character in both a comedy and a drama. He is also known for portraying Santa Claus in the comedy film Elf (2003) and its animated remake Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas (2014).

In 2009, he starred as the voice of Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's animated film Up, and made a guest appearance on CSI: NY in the episode "Yahrzeit". In early 2011, Asner returned to television as butcher Hank Greziak in Working Class, the first original sitcom on cable channel CMT. He starred in the Canadian television series Michael, Tuesdays and Thursdays, on CBC Television and has appeared in the 2013 television series The Glades. Asner has most recently starred as Guy Redmayne, a wealthy, homophobic billionaire who supports Alicia Florick's campaign in the sixth season of The Good Wife.

Early life and education

Asner was born on November 15, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri. His Jewish Russian-born parents, Lizzie (née Seliger), a housewife, and David Morris Asner[3] ran a second-hand shop.[4] He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family.[1][5]

Asner attended Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas, and the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.

He worked on the assembly line for General Motors.[6] Asner served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and appeared in plays that toured Army camps in Europe.[7]


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 City, Asner played Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum in the Off-Broadway revival of Threepenny Opera, and began to make inroads as a television actor. There were two standout performances on television. The first was as Detective Sgt. Thomas Siroleo in the 1963 episode of The Outer Limits titled "It Crawled Out of the Woodwork", and the second was as the reprehensible ex-premiere Brynov in the 1965 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode "The Exile".

Before he landed his role with Mary Tyler Moore, Asner guest-starred in television series including the syndicated crime drama Decoy, starring Beverly Garland, and the NBC western series The Outlaws and Route 66 in 1962 (the episode titled "Welcome to the Wedding") as Custody Officer Lincoln Peers. He was also cast on Jack Lord's ABC drama series Stoney Burke and in the series finale of CBS's The Reporter, starring Harry Guardino. He also appeared on Mr. Novak, Mission: Impossible and The Invaders. Asner also played a minor character in children's television show W.I.T.C.H. (Napoleon – Cornelia's younger sister's cat).

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 series, a thirty-minute comedy, the Lou Grant series was an hour-long award-winning drama about journalism. (For his role as Grant, Asner is one of only two actors to win an Emmy Award for a sitcom and a drama for the same role, with the second being Uzo Aduba.) Other television series starring Asner in regular roles include Thunder Alley, The Bronx Zoo and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He also starred in one episode of the western series, Dead Man's Gun (1997), as well as portraying 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 brought Kunta Kinte to America. That role earned Asner an Emmy Award, as did the similarly dark role of Axel Jordache in the miniseries 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 television film for RAI.

Asner has also had an extensive voice acting career. In 1987, he performed the role of the title character, George F. Babbitt, in the L.A. Classic Theatre Works' radio theatre production of Sinclair Lewis's novel "Babbitt." He also 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 Greedly 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 (2005–14); and Granny Goodness in various DC Comics animated series. Asner also provided the voice of famed American orator Edward Everett in the 2015 documentary film The Gettysburg Address.

Asner in May 2013

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."[8]

He has appeared in a recurring segment, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, entitled "Does This Impress Ed Asner?"

He was cast in a Country Music Television comedy pilot, Regular Joe.[9]

In 2001, Asner was the recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.[10]

Asner has won more Emmy Awards for performing than any other male actor (seven, including five for the role of Lou Grant). In 1996, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.[11][12]

In July 2010, Asner completed recording sessions for Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders; a documentary on the 1974 DeFeo murders in Amityville, New York. Asner served 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[13] 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 economy drama Too Big to Fail (2011).

Asner has also provided voice-over narration for many documentaries and films of social activism, including Tiger by the Tail, a documentary film detailing the efforts of the Campaign to Keep GM Van Nuys Open and the chair of the organization, Eric Mann, to keep General Motors' Van Nuys Assembly plant running.[14] He has also recorded for a public radio show and podcast, Playing On Air, appearing in Warren Leight’s The Final Interrogation of Ceaucescu’s Dog with Jesse Eisenberg, and Mike Reiss’s New York Story.[15][16]

Ed Asner guest starred in an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants entitled "Whirly Brains." He guest voiced as the grumpy old fish. [17]


Political views

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.[18] 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 sudden cancellation of Lou Grant in 1982 was the subject of much controversy. The show had high ratings—the level of which should have justified its ongoing presence in primetime (it was in the ACNielsen top ten throughout its final month on the air). However, the CBS television network declined to renew it. It has been Asner's consistent position that his political views, as well as the publicity surrounding them, were the actual root causes for the show's cancellation.[18]

Ed Asner endorsed Democratic Candidate Marcy Winograd in the 2011 California 36th Congressional district special election.[19]

In 2012, Asner came under fire from conservatives for narrating an animation promotional video for the California Federation of Teachers, Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale.[20]

Ed Asner co-moderated a United States presidential debate for alternative candidates on October 25, 2016 at the University of Colorado at Boulder along with Christina Tobin.[21]

Charity work

Ed Asner is on the Entertainment Board of Directors for The Survivor Mitzvah Project (www.survivormitzvah.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing direct emergency aid to elderly and impoverished Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe.

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 also sits on the advisory board for Exceptional Minds, a non-profit school and a computer animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum.[22]

Asner is also a member of the Honorary Board of Directors for the homeless respite service center Fresh Start WC in Walnut Creek, California.

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.[23] Asner confirmed his support for the statement in 2009.[24] Asner also narrated the documentary film The Oil Factor: Behind the War on Terror.[25]

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.[26] In 2011, Asner hosted the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth documentary on the collapse of 7 World Trade Center that concludes that the building was taken down by controlled demolition.[27]

Opposition to SAG/AFTRA merger

Asner at the 2012 Phoenix Comicon

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. Asner is adamantly opposed to such a merger, arguing that the planned merger would destroy the SAG's health plan and disempower actors.[28] Asner and a group of fellow actors and voice-actors including Martin Sheen and Ed Harris, 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.[29] The lawsuit is currently working its way through the court system.

Personal life

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.[30][31] Asner is a parent and a grandparent of a child with autism and is deeply involved with the autism nonprofit Autism Speaks.[32] Asner also serves on the advisory board of a suburban Chicago firm that employs persons with autistic spectrum disorders to test and program software.[33]

Engaged to producer Cindy Gilmore in 1991, he married her on August 2, 1998. Gilmore filed for legal separation on November 7, 2007.[34] Asner filed for divorce in 2015.[35]



  1. 1 2 3 Zager, Norma (August 5, 2005). "Outspoken Asner's Activism Is No Act". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
  2. Asner clearly explains his birthplace at 0:0:45 of his Archive of American Television interview for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, available at Video on YouTube.
  3. "Edward Asner Biography (1929-)". filmreference.com.
  4. Asner interview, Archive of American Television, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
  5. Horwitz, Simi (September 27, 2012). "Ed Asner's Still Crusty After All These Years". The Forward.
  6. Ed Asner Stars in Grace on Broadway - Vulture.com.
  7. "Edward Asner". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  8. "Keith Cohen review of "Up"". Entertainment Spectrum. Retrieved May 31, 2009.
  9. "Ed Asner Signs On to CMT Comedy Pilot". TVGuide.com.
  10. Edward Asner - 2001 Life Achievement Recipient - Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Wayback Machine (archived October 15, 2008)
  11. Hall of Fame Archives: Inductees - Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the Wayback Machine (archived December 18, 2013)
  12. "Television Hall of Fame Honorees: Complete List".
  13. .
  14. Goldman, Michael (Director) (1986). Tiger by the Tail (Motion picture). Los Angeles.
  15. PlayingOnAir (2015-01-07). "A Dog and a Cat: Two Short Plays". Playing On Air. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  16. PlayingOnAir (2014-12-08). "Ed Asner". Playing On Air. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  17. . Vincent Waller on Twitter.
  18. 1 2 Kassel, Michael B. (November 29, 2007). "Asner, Ed". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved April 6, 2008.
  19. Staff (April 28, 2011). "Ed Asner Urges Voters to 'Protect Social Security & Medicare from Robber Barons Who Looted America to Pay for the Wars'". Winograd For Congress. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
  20. . The Hollywood Reporter.
  21. Harper,Jennifer (October 25, 2016) Ed Asner to moderate presidential debate for alternative White House hopefuls http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/25/socialist-vs-constitutionalist-reformist-alternati/
  22. Ross, L.A. (April 22, 2014). "'Sesame Street' Partnering With Exceptional Minds School for Autism Initiative". The Wrap.
  23. "Ed Asner's message to the 9/11 truth movement".
  24. Rossmeier, Vincent (September 11, 2009). "Would you still sign the 9/11 Truth petition?". Salon. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  25. .
  26. Asner, Ed (April 26, 2004). "A letter to the Peace and Justice movement from Ed Asner". 911 Visibility Project. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
  27. .
  28. Former SAG President Edward Asner speaks out against the SAG-AFTRA merger on YouTube
  29. "SAG-AFTRA: Anti-Merger Lawsuit Drops a Key Demand". The Hollywood Reporter.
  30. "Ed Asner admits baby boy is his illigitimate child". Deseret News. 18 June 1988. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  31. "Ed Asner Fast Facts". CNN. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  32. mickeynews.com at the Wayback Machine (archived July 20, 2006), writing "James Denton ... applauded hosts of the organization's autism awareness public service announcements, including celebrity parents of children with autism, Ed Asner, Gary Cole, Joe Mantegna and John Schneider."
  33. "Aspiritech - Board Members & Advisors". aspiritech.org.
  34. "Ed Asner's Second Wife Seeks Separation". The Washington Post. The Associated Press. 27 November 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  35. Fowler, Tara (15 May 2015). "Ed Asner Files For Divorce 8 Years After Separating From Wife". People. Retrieved 27 August 2016.

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