Ed Asner finally shares stage with ‘my sweetheart,’ Marion Ross
BY MIKE THOMAS Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 10, 2013 11:10PM
Actor Ed Asner leads a master class with local theater students and instructors at the West Side Theatre Guild in Gary, Ind., Tuesday, March 12, 2013. Asner, whose film career has spanned more than five decades, gave the master class prior to his acting engagement as Franklin D. Roosevelt at Marquette Park Pavilion. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
‘I’VE GOT A LIFE IN KALAMAZOO’
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State
Tickets: $22-$155 (some with VIP dining/meet-and-greet)
Asner also plans to perform his “FDR” show Wednesday at Governors State University in south suburban University Park (CenterTickets.net; 708-235-2222).
Updated: May 12, 2013 2:04PM
Here is how Vicki Lewis describes two of her co-stars in an evolving sitcom project called “I’ve Got a Life in Kalamazoo”:
“Ed is a strong-willed curmudgeon. He’s very funny. I take no offense in him whatsoever. I find him hysterical. He’s just a grumpy old man. And Marion is so lovely and holds her own against him. I wasn’t worried about me, but I thought, ‘Oh, frail Marion. I feel sorry for her.’ [But] she just knocked him around.”
The Broadway actress and former “NewsRadio” cast member is referring to Ed Asner and Marion Ross, a couple of America’s most beloved television personalities — Asner, 83, for his Emmy-garnering portrayal of cantankerous newspaper editor Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spin-off “Lou Grant,” and 84-year-old Ross for her 11 seasons as Richie Cunningham’s doting mother (also named Marion) on “Happy Days.” Shorter stints on “Brothers & Sisters” and “Gilmore Girls” followed.
This weekend, the “Kalamazoo” cast (which also includes co-producer Patrick Ziegler and “Blue Bloods” actor Gregory Jbara) will stage and tape two live performances at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications. The tapings, along with viewer feedback, will be used to help sell the program to networks.
“Kalamazoo” marks the first time Asner — who got his start in Chicago a half-century ago with Second City predecessor Playwrights Theatre Company — and Ross will occupy the same stage in their decades-long careers. Appropriately enough, they’ll play the temperamentally disparate parents of Lewis’ character Nilah Hoyer, who shelves her dreams of showbiz stardom to care for Mom and Dad in their twilight years.
Lewis, 53, says both veteran actors are still “right on their game.”
They seem to have an easy rapport as well, and it’s evident during a phone call earlier this week.
Asner comes on the line first. Ross beeps in shortly thereafter.
“Whaddaya want?!” Asner barks as only Lou Grant can.
“I’ve always loved your silent films, Marion,” he says.
That gets a giggle, too.
“Don’t tell him,” she says, “but I’ve been dying to do a series with Ed Asner.”
Asked if they’re still typecast to some degree because of their popular roles on long-running series, Asner replies, “You need a gypsy lover? I can do that. I can play my Hungarian rhapsody for you.”
Ross broke the Marion Cunningham mold with her turn as Jewish-American matron Sophie Berger in the short-lived drama “Brooklyn Bridge,” which ran on CBS from 1991 to 1993.
For much of her career, she says, “I was playing the kind of women that I saw growing up in Minnesota.”
“If I had met a broad like that in Kansas City,” the Missouri-born Asner says of Ross, “I never would’ve left.”
Again, Ross laughs.
She’s glad to be playing a different type of character on “Kalamazoo” as well.
“The mother I’m playing is really such a pain in the neck and tiresome.”
“Yeah,” Asner cracks, “but it’s real life in your case.”
Although he praises “Kalamazoo’s” writing as “really good stuff” and true-to-life, Asner declares Ross the real reason he signed on for this gig. Otherwise, “I just want to go to sleep.”
But he claims to feel fine. After a recent and much-publicized fright in Gary, where he was rushed to the hospital after becoming sweaty and discombobulated during a performance of his one-man play “FDR,” he’s up for another challenge.
Besides the widely reported diagnosis of “exhaustion,” Asner reveals, his Gary wooziness was due in part to “a touch of E. coli.” Its origins, he says, are a mystery.
“I must have kissed somebody who was fragrant.”
At the end of our conversation, Ross and Asner remain on the line for a few moments and talk among themselves.
“I’ll see you Thursday, Ed,” Ross says.
“My sweetheart,” Asner coos gruffly, informing her he’s coming in a day earlier.
“What’s your room number, honey?” the gypsy lover inquires.
There’s a pause as the connection breaks up.
“Marion! I’m talking to you!”