Ed Asner: A quick chat with TV’s Lou Grant

(Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay)

Albuquerque, NM — It started a few years ago, when I’d sent a request to Ed Asner for an autographed signature of him standing with Mary in the middle and Ted Knight bragging about something.

Ed Asner sent the photo back a few weeks later with the inscription: “If Ted puts his arm around me like that again, I’m going to rip it off” And then when confronted with the inscription, he laughed.

Eddie Asner was born September 15, 1929 in Kansas City. He attended Wyandotte High School, and is an actor and voice actor with a great deal of success in many roles over the decades. His is one of our great American stories. Our telephone interview took place last week—Tuesday, July 6th.

Flores: How’d you like growing up in Kansas City? What was working on a General Motors line—your job? Hard work—long hours? How long did you do it?

Asner: It was a bitch. I was polishing hoods and fenders. Right out of high school. And I had a mean S.O.B. for a foreman–who didn’t like me. Really, the first job I had out of high school. My first day on the job was working, working, working, and I was dehydrated so I jumped off the stand I stood on and bent over to get a drink. (Boss man says) What are you doin! You don’t get a drink until you get out of the hole. (More time on the job). I learned my lesson.

Flores: And you were in the Army in the Korean War?

Asner: What the goddamned hell name is that, camp something. Anyway—it’s Camp Crowder. Georgia. Basic training eight weeks. Then it was special forces in signal corps—all there. Trained there, and once you were trained you would ship out. I was one of the last ones to get marching orders. Waited, didn’t know what to make of it. I joined a signal corps outfit in Central France. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. This was NOT World War II. This was Korea (Asner said, with a slight chuckle of amusement.)

Flores: How did you get into acting?

Asner: In college, a friend of mine started a closed-circuit radio station for the dormitory system at Chicago University. My roommate was more or less involved in acting, and I did radio in high school. I auditioned for this radio station, a poetry reading to him, and he noted how beautiful it was—the poem? It was—let me think. It was, ah, it was When Lilacs Last in the … something bloom. Courtyard bloom? Courtroom? He continued working the theater at the university. Then I had the lead, after auditioning, for a spring production of a play by T.S. Eliot. I checked out a book, read it, auditioned. It was easy.

Flores: How do you view acting technique, Ted Knight and The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

Asner: Good acting is becoming somebody else, convinced that you are it. And about Ted on the show, you know in real life behind the scenes he was the funniest man I think I’ve ever met. He always had something to crack me up. That was a blast all the way. But my favorite role was in Rich Man, Poor Man. And the other funniest man in the world — as I found out when acting in a movie with him — is Will Ferrell. Good god. Never boring. But one of my favorite movies is Blade Runner with Harrison Ford. Really. And I like Marty (Martin Sheen) and Robert De Niro, too. Yeah.”

I love the theater. The place to learn about acting. We don’t have a National Theater—like others do—because, I think, (the drama people) don’t like to be too organized. We’re that way. I like Eugene O’Neil, as a playwright, and Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, of course. But I find O’Neil taxing. He tends to drone on, and on, and on.

I’ll leave you with this. I was indeed on the Dick Cavett show and had the flu. I kept wiping my face, and sweating all over the place. Cavett was befuddled. I thought I was brilliant!” he said, this time chuckling.

Flores: Could I ask in closing about “The Other Guy” and the “New Guy” in the White House?

Asner: I think the guy in there (Biden) is a good guy and will try to do good for America. He will do a good job. Hell, he’s good at (being president). Competence. What a concept.

Ed Asner with Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight and Gavin MacLeod. (courtesy John W. Flores)
Ed Asner with Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight and Gavin MacLeod. (courtesy John W. Flores)