Love for Ed Asner spans generations. The actor, who died Sunday at 91, had been working actor for more than a decade when he picked up his iconic role as journalist Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970. He played Mary’s grouchy but lovable boss (“You have spunk. I hate spunk.”) When that sitcom was canceled, Asner reprised the role on Lou Grant, an hourlong drama set at a newspaper that tackled the issues of the day—the day being 1977-1982. He won seven Emmy awards playing Lou Grant in the two shows. Asner, also a liberal activist and Screen Actors Guild president, quietly suspected the show was canceled not for declining ratings but because of his criticism of then-president Ronald Reagan and support of liberal causes, the Washington Post reports.
There really are no gaps on Asner’s resume. He worked steadily and his IMDb page shows projects currently in production with his name attached. But he surprised a new generation with his signature lovable gruffness as Santa in Elf in 2003 and Carl Fredrickson, the older widower who ties balloons in his house and flies away, in Up in 2009. And a new batch of viewers discovered him early this year as Johnny’s stepfather on the Netflix Karate Kid reboot Cobra Kai.
Asner, before he found stardom, worked as a taxi driver and an encyclopedia salesman and was drafted into the Army, serving from 1951-1953, per the New York Times. He married Nancy Sykes in 1959, but the couple divorced in 1988. He was married to Cindy Gilmore from 1998 to 2015. He had three children with his first wife. (Read more celebrity death stories.)