Call Ed Asner an icon and you’ll get the expected gruff response that you’d expect from his signature character Lou Grant. “How many times can you be called an icon and be thrilled by it?” he asked when we sat down at his home in Valley Village. Yet it was because he is such an icon, with an enduring career in comedy and drama that has earned Emmys, Golden Globes, and many other awards, that he was honored at the recent Burbank International Film Festival. He called the event “momentarily delicious.”
At the festival he had the short film drama Good Men presented, which is among the slew of projects he’s been working on — the series Royal Pains, plus Should’ve Been Romeo, Let Go, along with other films. But it’s when he mentions touring the country in the one-man show FDR that I see his face light up. Asner beamed, “We’ve had fantastic audiences everywhere, from Montana to New Jersey. It’s uplifting to be reminded we’ve licked problems facing this country in the past, and somehow we will do it again.”
It seems Asner has been an activist for as long as he can remember, but he doesn’t like to take credit for helping people and causes. He said, “The real people who help others are the good nurses, social workers, teachers who buy supplies themselves to help the kids. Also the parents who invest their lives in every aspect of their kids. Those people are never sung about. They are the heroes.” He humbly called himself “a lightning rod to draw attention to the problems.”
Asner was president of SAG and has received SAG’s Life Achievement Award, but when asked about his proudest accomplishments, he remarked about his four children. “World acclaim is vaporous. That’s not the yardstick for success,” he noted wisely. But he enjoys being a working actor.
A friend of his once described Ed as “a man who intends to leave footprints on this world.” The nature-loving fellow responded to that statement softly with, “I hope that my heavy footprints do not cause any damage to the earth, and I would like to leave it a better place.” Indeed, he already has.