Ed Asner Honors ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Costar Cloris Leachman

by Jennifer Shea

“Mary Tyler Moore Show” star Ed Asner is paying tribute to his late costar Cloris Leachman, who played Mary’s landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on the show.

Ed Asner Remembers Cloris Leachman

“We got awful chummy, and we dug each other a lot,” Asner told Entertainment Tonight. “When we first started the show, she got me to not worry about reading the teleprompter, rewind the script, improv… We did it with improv and it worked well.”

Asner played Mary’s boss, Lou Grant, on the show. He and Leachman didn’t have many scenes together, but he said she was a brazen actress who didn’t gripe about what she got to work with.

“[Leachman] used what was there,” Asner said. “She didn’t cry about it. She had pride in herself and she did not like being bound down to any rules and regulations.”

Moreover, “she was a free cat. She was just marvelous, a marvelous actress,” he added. “And she would come up with some wonderful ideas.”

Leachman died at her home in Encinitas, California of natural causes. She was 94.

Asner appeared to be broken up about Leachman’s death, tweeting on Wednesday, “A picture from the last time I saw you. Always beautiful. Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you. Until we meet again darling.”

A Dwindling Cast of Characters

Asner is among the last remaining cast members of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” who are still alive. Betty White, who played Sue Ann Nivens, is still kicking at age 99. And Gavin MacLeod, who played Murray Slaughter, Mary’s coworker, is still alive and acted on stage as recently as 2017.

But Moore died in January 2017 at age 80. Ted Knight, who played Mary’s coworker, TV anchor Ted Baxter, died in August 1986 of colon cancer. Georgia Engel, who played Ted Baxter’s wife Georgette, died in April 2019 of undetermined causes (a Christian Scientist, she avoided doctors). Valerie Harper, who played Mary’s friend Rhoda, died in August 2019 of lung cancer that had spread to her brain. 

Juliet Green, Leachman’s manager, tells People that Leachman was one of a kind.

“There was no one like Cloris,” she said. “With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic.” 

Leachman was also a lifelong vegetarian and a strong advocate for animal rights. Her family has requested that donations in her name go to PETA or Last Chance for Animals.