Ed Asner Dead at 91: Henry Winkler Emotionally Says Goodbye to ‘a Most Wonderful Acting Partner’

by Suzanne Halliburton

Henry Winkler honored Ed Asner after he learned of Asner’s death, paying tribute to an actor who once played his father.

“GOOD BYE Extraordinary Ed,” Winkler posted on Twitter. “Thank you for your friendship and your guidance. You were a most wonderful acting partner… RIP”

Ed Asner’s death rocked Hollywood Sunday. He was 91, but still active in the business of acting. The Ed Asner official Twitter account announced the sad news.

“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.”

Most fans of classic television always will think of Ed Asner as Lou Grant, the gruff, but lovable TV newsman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Then Asner got his own show playing the same character. But in Lou Grant, Asner was a newspaper city editor in Los Angeles.

Ed Asner defined 1970s era television. He won five Emmys for playing Lou Grant. At the same time, Henry Winkler was becoming a pop culture phenom as Fonzie on Happy Days. The two actors worked on separate networks. Winkler was a star for ABC, with Asner a standout for CBS.

Winkler Made TV Debut on Mary Tyler Moore Show. He Attended the Same Dinner Party as Ed Asner

But the two did cross paths in the 1970s. In fact, Winkler made his prime-time TV debut on Mary Tyler Moore. He played Rhoda’s date to a dinner party hosted by Mary Richards.

Asner and Winkler also worked together on Royal Pains. They weren’t the stars of the show, which was about a surgeon who becomes a concierge doctor tending to rich people in the Hamptons. It ran on USA Network from 2009-2016.

Winkler played a rascally kind of guy. He was the father of the doctor and his brother. But Winkler abandoned them when they were young. He got sent to prison for embezzlement but was trying to turn around his life. Winkler’s character wrote a best-selling book and worked on his relationship with his sons.

Then Ed Asner joined the cast as Winkler’s dad and grandfather to Winkler’s sons. He appeared on Royal Pains a decade ago.

Winkler talked about having Ed Asner in the cast during a 2011 Q&A with The Hollywood Reporter. He described it as a “joyful” experience.

“It was amazing,” Winkler said. “The three generations: Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Henry Winkler and Ed Asner.  It was like we had been doing this forever when we got together. Not just when we did the scenes together but how the two boys played with Ed. He’s so feisty and funny and sharp as a tack. It was just joyful.”

The reporter asked him if Winkler needed to be in a different mindset to play someone’s son.

“I didn’t because of the way it was written,” he said. “You know when you go home no matter how old you are you immediately fall back into being a teenager? That’s what happened.”

And Winkler was asked if he could see himself continue working the way Ed Asner had done.

Winkler’s response: “Let me just say unequivocally in large letters: I hope so.”