The Mary Tyler Moore Show’: Ed Asner’s First Audition Did Not Go Well

by Taylor Cunningham

On September 19th, 1970, CBS’s The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted and went on to win seven Emmys during its seven-year run. The show’s two biggest stars were Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards and Ed Asner as Lou Grant.

Asner’s Grant went down in history as one of the most iconic characters in sitcom history. Some may even argue that he was as memorable as Mary Richards. So it’s interesting to know that Asner didn’t do so well during his audition for the show.

At the time of the audition, Ed Asner had built a solid career in Hollywood as a dramatic actor. But The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the namesake actress were all about comedy. However, in 2018, the late actor told Entertainment Weekly that creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns were certain that Asner could pull off a sitcom. And before Asner went in for his reading, they had already decided that he was the future Lou Grant.

But Ed Asner didn’t know that his place on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was already secured. And after he left his audition, Asner thought he lost his chance to star on the show.

“I read as I thought they wanted to hear me read, and they laughed and said the appropriate ‘Thank you, we’ll be in touch.’ From what I heard, after I left, Mary turned to them and, with a tremendously screwed-up face, said, ‘Are you sure?’ I don’t blame her for asking the question that way, because it was a meshuggeneh reading. The producers then said to her, ‘That’s your Lou Grant.'”

Ed Asner Recalls Memories of His ‘Dull’ Date with Mary Tyler Moore

Most fans of The Mary Tyler Moore Show remember the on-screen chemistry of Mary Richards and Lou Grant. For years, rumors circulated about the stars having a secret romance. According to Grant’s Ed Asner, the chemistry was real—they felt it too. So Asner asked Moore on a date.

When Ed Asner first met Mary Tyler Moore, he was enthralled. In 2018, he told Entertainment Weekly that the second he laid eye on her in real life, he thought she was a “goddess.”

“America’s sweetheart—that was my first impression,” he admitted. “Automatically, her beauty took hold.”

And those feelings stuck around until the end of the series when Asner finally asked the newly divorced Moore on a date.

In August, Ed Asner finally told his fans how that date went when The Hollywood Reporter asked him to go on the record about his relationship with the actress.

The Emmy-winning actor simply said that all that chemistry boiled into nothing. When the two went on a date, the experience was “dull.”

But Asner did say that Moore was “a doll.” And their friendship lasted until she died in 2017.