Asner’s Lou Grant sparked desire to become a journalist
March 13, 2013 4:10PM
Actor Anthony McCoy (right), a senior at Wirt / Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Gary, presents a monologue to actor Ed Asner during a master class at the West Side Theatre Guild in Gary, Ind. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
‘It’s not my fault; you cannot blame me,” award-winning actor Ed Asner said to me after I introduced myself and told him that he — rather, his iconic character, Lou Grant — was the deal-closer of my wanting to go into journalism.
Getting an invitation to sit in at a master acting class instructed by Asner was a full-circle moment for me. While I kept my cool, as journalists are supposed to do, I was jumping up and down mentally because I was sitting in the same space as the actor who played the no-nonsense, gruff-voiced editor in two iconic television shows that spanned from the 1970s into the early ’80s.
Asner’s Lou Grant made a smooth transition from seven years of comedy with “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” from 1970-77, to a one-hour drama, “Lou Grant” from 1977-82.
Asner won Emmys from both shows, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Lou Grant,” the latter twice.
I watched “Lou Grant” the entire time it aired on CBS. I was 10 years old when it premiered, 15 when it was canceled. This show was a behind-the-scenes look into a fictional newspaper and touched on a lot of social issues and what journalists go through in getting the stories.
“Lou Grant” became a study guide in journalism. And I watched that show with a passion.
I did not know the back story of the cancellation of “Lou Grant” until Asner spoke at the class. Asner is a passionate actor and activist and said he was blacklisted from Hollywood for years after “Lou Grant” was “crossed out of the Monday night lineup” because of his political views.
He continued his career as a voiceover actor for documentaries, the award-winning Disney-Pixar film “Up” and the animated TV series “The Boondocks,” based on the controversial comic strip by Aaron McGruder.
“Aaron is a genius, but he needs to do more than 13 episodes,” Asner said.
Now back to that opening sentence in this column. Asner went on to tell me that he was editor of his high school newspaper and considered a career in journalism.
“The acting teacher asked if I was going to be a journalist and I said yes. He responded, ‘You’ll never make any money,’ ” Asner said.
Maybe not, but Asner had me and other inspired journalists fooled for a long time. And I don’t regret it one bit.