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Edward Asner was born in Kansas City, Kansas, on November 15, 1929, and was raised in the only Jewish family in his neighborhood. His performing career got its start while he was announcing for his high school radio station.
Moving to Chicago in the 1950's, Asner became a member of the Playwrights Theatre Club. He subsequently went to New York City to try his luck on Broadway, and spent several years in the off-Broadway production Threepenny Opera. Toward the end of the 1950's he began making occasional appearances in industrial short subject films.
Between 1960 and 1965, Asner established himself as one of television's most reliable villains, especially during the "spy show" boom of 1964-1965 (owing to his resemblance to certain Soviet politicians of the day). He also made regular appearances on the New York-based dramatic series Slattery's People.
While establishing himself as a TV villain, Asner was also making appearances on the silver screen, and it was while playing a relatively minor part as a cop in Elvis Presley's Change of Habit (1969) that Asner first worked with Mary Tyler Moore. In 1970, Asner was cast as Lou Grant, the hard-to-get-along-with boss of the WJM newsroom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Although Moore was initially against Asner being cast in the role because she didn't think he was funny enough, the series ran for seven seasons, during which time Asner earned three Emmys.
Asner returned to his "villainous roots" in 1977, when he played the recurring role of Captain Thomas Davies in the television miniseries Roots, for which he earned another Emmy.
After The Mary Tyler Moore Show ceased production in 1977, Asner expanded his Lou Grant characterization into an hour-long dramatic weekly about a big-city newspaper, the Los Angeles Tribune. Naturally titled Lou Grant, this series lasted five seasons and earned another Emmy for Asner -- making him the only actor to win Emmys for playing the same character in both a comedy and a drama.
During the 1980's, Asner headlined two more regular television series -- Off the Rack and The Bronx Zoo -- and starred in several television movies. Slowed down by health problems in the 1990's, Asner has made semi-regular appearances in such notable weekly sitcoms as Hearts Afire, Thunder Alley, and Dharma and Greg. He has also had one-time roles in series as diverse as The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, The Practice, and Roseanne. In addition to his numerous on-screen roles, Asner has also contributed his voice to a great many movies and television programs, and he continues to make occasional appearance on the silver screen.
In addition to the work talked about above, Asner also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild twice -- in 1981 and 1985.
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This page was last updated on 09/23/2017.