‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’: Ed Asner Said Fans Approach Him More for Cartoon Work Than Classic Show

by Suzanne Halliburton
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The Mary Tyler Moore Show probably wouldn’t have been as deliciously good without Ed Asner as Lou Grant. Asner made the character so popular in the comedy that he won an Emmy playing the same guy in a drama.

Lou Grant was America’s newsman, first at WJM-TV, then as city editor for the fictitious Los Angeles Tribune.

Yet in an interview a dozen years ago, Asner said fans don’t recognize him as much for being Lou Grant. He last played the character in the 1980s. Rather, fans know his voice.

“I find so many autograph seekers, etc., who are approaching me not for Mary Tyler Moore but for my cartoon work on cartoon series,” Asner said.

Long After Mary Tyler Show, Asner Starred in Up

Lou Grant of Mary Tyler Moore Show fame might be best known to younger fans as Carl Fredricksen in Up. The movie won the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2010. Fans of all ages loved Up. It was so well made it had the honor of opening the Cannes Film Festival, making it the first animated movie ever to do so.

The movie grossed more than $700 million. That made it the fourth-highest grossing animated film from 2000-10. Only Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 earned more than Up.

Asner’s Fredricksen was a 78-year-old widower. The balloon salesman tied thousands of balloons to his house so that he could find Paradise Falls, somewhere in South America. He traveled with a boy named Russell, who was voiced by Jordan Nagai. The movie shows us their adventures and the people they meet along the way.

Before Up made its debut, Asner talked it up. Way up.

“I think it’s one of the sweetest movies to come down the pike,” Asner says. “I suppose if it gets attacked, it may get attacked for being sentimental.  But I think people will be very nicely touched by it.  It’s a love story between an old man and a little kid.”

Asner Voiced So Many Roles, Including For Star Wars, Spiderman and Superman

But Asner did more than Up. His voice was everywhere. He talked about the benefits of voice-only roles.

“Well, you don’t have to shave,” Asner said.  “It’s quick. And I get enormous pleasure out of it. 

Asner started voice work in 1986, after the Mary Tyler Moore Show had become a distant memory to TV fans. He was Joshua in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. He played J. Jonah Jameson on the animated TV series Spider Man. That part seemed appropriate since Jameson was editor of the fictional Daily Bugle.

Asner was Jabba the Hut when Star Wars did a radio version. He also stuck with the franchise, voicing Master Vrook in Stars Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel. Asner was in another popular franchise, voicing Roland Daggett on Batman: The Animated Series. And he was Granny Goodness in the DC Universe animated series of movies.

Granny Goodness was a female villain. She was described as “the primary henchwoman for the evil lord Darkseid, ruler of the distant planet Apokolips and a cruel, ominous being even more powerful than Superman.” Asner voiced the role in multiple Superman animated shows.

Asner celebrated his 91st birthday last November. He is the most honored male performer in the history of the Primetime Emmys. To date, he’s won seven, five for playing Lou Grant. He won three Emmys for the Mary Tyler Moore Show and two for Lou Grant. And he also took home Emmys for two of the best mini-series in TV history — Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots.

His list of credits show that no matter the character, Ed Asner is one of the top actors in our history.

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