Interview with Ed Asner

Ed Asner is a legend in Hollywood.  Whether it is TV or film, Ed has done it all and is still doing it all.  He is known best for his role in “Mary Tyler Moore” and its spin-off “Lou Grant”.  Ed also worked the character of Carl in Disney/Pixar’s “Up” and played Santa Clause in 2003’s “Elf”.  Ed recently just completed working on CMT’s TV series “Working Class” as well an HBO film “Too Big to Fail”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Ed about his career and working on some of his well known projects.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working on the film “Too Big to Fail” as Warren Buffett and working with such a great cast?
Ed Asner: Well it was a great cast but unfortunately every goddamn thing I did was on the phone [laughs].  All I heard was disembodied voices…probably our assistant director.  It was an honor to play Buffet, I have admired him and he didn’t screw up in this film either.

MG: Tell us about working on the TV series “Working Class”, was that a fun project?
EA: It was a very fun project.  It was big work load and I will give you an example why.  We did one episode of “Mary Tyler Moore” in five days and it was a relaxed country club.   We had to do TWO shows on “Working Class” in five days, so the work schedule was tough. But everybody involved was a gem of a person, producers, writers, and fellow actors.  I was surprise we were as good as we were.

MG: Can we expect more Hank Greziak in season two of “Working Class”??
EA: No, we won’t. CMT has given us the hook.  There has been some attempt to interest other networks but that rarely works. It is a loss to me that I will not be able to do more work with Patrick Fabian, Melissa Peterman and Steve Kazee.  They were wonderful to work with.

MG: If you had to pick a favorite between your award winning TV shows: “Mary Tyler Moore” or “Lou Grant” which would it be and why?
EA: You can’t do that to me.  Bigger people than you have asked me that and I have refused them [laughing].  “Mary Tyler Moore” was nothing but sheer delight. Getting the laughs and getting the points across was nothing but great pleasure. With “Lou Grant”, we knew we were the first show to ever show a newspapers as it approached being a newspaper.  We presented situations and problems that no one else in America was presenting.  We were presenting both sides of it and never the bad side winning of course. It is apples and oranges, you just can’t compare them. It was a lot more fun doing “Mary Tyler Moore”. “Lou Grant” was a grind but all hour shows are a grind. I was saved in many respects that I was chained because that goddamn desk.  Billie and Rossi had to go around covering stories.  When it had to do with stories in the newsroom that is where I came to shine.  It was more fun to do “Mary” but the honor was great if not greater to do “Lou”.

MG: You have won 7 Emmys, more than any other male performer and also only person to ever win Emmys for same character on two different shows, how does it feel to hold these records?
EA: It is insane.  I do not think you will find anyone capturing it again, in terms of winning it both ways.  The conversion of Lou from half hour to hour was a nightmare.  It was horrible.  Nobody did it before and no one has done it since.  It is two different worlds.  It is the dark and the light side of the moon for God’s sakes. You are doing a half an hour with three cameras and an audience that laughs every time you burp.  Then you switch over to an hour where you can’t hear any laughter and it breaks the wall of reality.  It is single camera.  For instance I was in therapy at the time and my shrink asked me, “Why do you grimace so much?” and I said “Oh”.  I realized we were a dramedy, but I felt that in places where I thought people should laugh, I would do the goddamn grimace to service a key to let go at home.  It was stupid and unnecessary.  If they are going to laugh they will laugh and they don’t need any cues from me.  But I was so nervous that I would do that.  When we were brought back for the second year, you may call it psychological but I was shaving with a two edge razor blade at the time.  I left it out to dry out and I was racing to go to work for the first day.  I raced into bathroom, late as usual, picked up the razor, brought it to my side burn and pulled down and sliced open my cheek.  I ran to St. Joseph’s Hospital and luckily for a plastic surgeon, he put in 20 smaller stitches and I worked that afternoon.  I figured I must have been doing that trying to avoid the frustration of the hour show.

MG: You have been known to do a lot of voice work on over 20 projects, do you enjoy voice work?
EA: Oh I love it.  I get carried away like doing any other job.  My God, what “Up” did for my career…I just love it.

MG: Looking back on playing your character Carl from Disney/Pixar’s “Up”, did you enjoy that experience?
EA: It was lovely.  [laughing] I actually had an accident working on that film too though.  I believe it was the sixth session, there was a rise level by the sound room and I was marching back to the mic room.  Well, I tripped on it and went crashing into a shield covered corner of the wall.  I opened behind my ear as my head hit the wall.  It took six staples to close it.  Well, I still went on to work and did the days work anyway [laughs]. Nothing stops me.

MG: You have been successful in both TV & movies; do you prefer one over the other?
EA: I think TV is a medium that is just as great if not greater than film, expect you have to do it faster and you don’t get the spoiled treatment.  I have done a slew of low budget films where conditions are certainly no better than TV.  TV you are on an express train and there can be no feet dragging.  For anybody to put movie actors over TV actors…are full of crap.

MG: You have played Santa Claus more than a few times most recently in 2003’s “Elf”, did you enjoy playing St. Nick”?
EA: I think that Jon Favreau created the definitive Santa Clause in “Elf”.  I love playing him in that film and I would love to do it again.

MG: What else do you have planned for the future? Any upcoming projects you want to talk about?
EA: I have been working on a film about the Spanish Civil War.  We almost had it financed but it just ran into issues, so we will see about that one.  It is a great film and Ed Harris is going to be in it.  I am suppose to do a film in Alaska, which I have high hopes for and we will be shooting that in October.  There is another film that I am waiting to hear back on which I will be playing a chairman of the commission that re-hears the 9-11 tragedy. So let’s hope.

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