‘Lou Grant’: Why Ed Asner Said Making Show ‘So Difficult’ and Full of ‘Agony’

by Keeli Parkey

Going from a supporting actor on a famous sitcom, to the lead in a drama centered around your character from the previous show has to be a stressful work experience. And, according to actor Ed Asner, who is famous for playing Lou Grant, it definitely was.

Asner first began playing the hard-nosed, but lovable newsman on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He was a key part of the sitcom’s success during its run from 1970 until 1977. The groundbreaking show remains popular to this day.

Asner’s Lou Grant character was the boss of Mary Tyler Moore’s character, Mary Richards, at WJM-TV News. Grant was famous for being tough-talking and distant. However, when other characters on the sitcom needed him to step up, he was often there.

After “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” came to an end, Asner was able to continue playing the famous newsman. This opportunity arose thanks to the creation of spinoff show “Lou Grant.”

This show, however, was different from “The Mary Tyler Moore.” Instead of being a sitcom, “Lou Grant” was a drama. The show was based in Los Angeles, not in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” had been.

Ed Asner Once Said Working on ‘Lou Grant’ Was ‘Horrifying’

Working on the “Lou Grant” show was a very challenging experience. At least that’s what Ed Asner said during a 2009 interview with PopEntertainment.com. One element that made working on the show was that doing a spinoff show was fairly unique in the late 1970s.

“Well it would have been exciting if it hadn’t been so horrifying,” Asner said during the interview. “It was something that had never been done before, and after the agony I had to go through, it probably will never be done again.”

In fact, going from playing Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to playing the same character on “Lou Grant” was an “enormous switch,” according to Asner. The actor also said that taking the character from one show to another “made life so difficult.”

Also during the interview, Asner said it took years for the show to get to where they wanted it to be. “We were finding our sea legs for two years,” he added.

Asner Said Awards Helped Keep Spinoff on the Air

Fortunately, for Asner and everyone else who worked on the show, “Lou Grant” was an award-winning show. This, according to the actor, helped keep it on the air.

“It would have been cancelled earlier, CBS said, had we not won a lot of Emmys in our first year and had CBS not been caught flatfooted without anything to replace us with,” Asner said during the interview. “They stuck with us and we grew and it certainly meant a lot to thinking people. But it was an agony to have to go through as an actor.”

“Lou Grant” aired from 1977 until 1982. Thanks to his work on that show, Ed Asner came to hold a very unique acting record. He is reportedly the only actor to ever win Emmy Awards for playing the same character in a comedy and in a different drama television show.