LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Ed Asner, the seven-time Emmy winning TV star forever remembered as gruff-but-lovable newsman Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the dramatic spinoff “Lou Grant,” died today at age 91.
“We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully,” according to a statement from the family. “Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head -- goodnight dad. We love you.”
Forever remembered for his work as Lou Grant, the venerable actor was introduced to a whole new generation when he lent his voice to the main character in Pixar's animated hit “Up.” He also had a memorable turn in the film “Elf,” and he appeared in shows including “Dead to Me,” “Grace and Frankie” and “Cobra Kai.”
His seven Emmy awards made him the most Emmy-honored male performer. In addition to winning five times for portraying Lou Grant -- three times on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and twice on “Lou Grant” -- he also won Emmys for his work in “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “Roots.”
A Kansas City native, Asner was a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, and he was presented a lifetime achievement award from the organization in 2001.
“There have been few actors of Ed Asner's prominence who risked their status to fight for social causes the way Ed did,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.
“He fought passionately for his fellow actors, both before, during and after his SAG presidency. But his concern did not stop with performers. He fought for victims of poverty, violence, war, and legal and social injustice, both in the United States and around the globe.”
After a stint with the U.S. Army, Asner co-founded the Playwrights Theatre Company in Chicago, which eventually evolved into The Second City. He appeared in a series of plays in New York, according a role opposite Jack Lemmon in ``Face of a Hero.''
He broke into television with a 1957 appearance in “Studio one,” going on to appear in shows such as “Mission: Impossible,” “Route 66,” “The Outer Limits,” “The Virginian,” and “The Reporter.”
But it was “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” that rocketed him to stardom. His portrayal of the notoriously grumpy leader of a TV newsroom made him an Emmy and audience favorite. His popularity led to the creation of the one-hour drama series “Lou Grant” when “MTM” ended its run in 1977.
He also appeared on another “MTM” spinoff, “Rhoda,” along with shows such as “ER,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The X-Files.”
Asner was a politically active figure, known for supporting liberal causes and candidates. In 2017, he and longtime TV writer/producer Ed. Weinberger co-authored the book “The Grouchy Historian,” which was subtitled “An old-time lefty defends our Constitution against right-wing hypocrites and nutjobs.”
Friends, colleagues and even his favorite baseball team took to social media to share sentiments about the man.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers are saddened about the passing of legendary actor, philanthropist and longtime Dodger fan,” the baseball team posted on Twitter along with a photo of Asner on the field. “We offer our thoughts and condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Actor and activist George Takei called Asner's role as Lou Grant “unforgettable.”
“He was a giant on the screen, and a philanthropist, too. A man of true heart and talent,” Takei wrote on social media. “He will be missed.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted that Asner was “An actor, activist, father, uncle and friend to many.” He said, “You made us laugh, warmed our hearts, fought for justice and stood up for what you believed was right. You will be missed. Rest in peace.”
Actor LeVar Burton, who worked with Asner on “Roots,” said the man had the “soul of a lion with a heart of gold” on Twitter.
Asner is survived by daughters Liza and Kate, sons Charles and Matthew and 10 grandchildren.