7 Questions for . . . Ed Asner

Grandparents.com talks to beloved actor and 7-time Emmy Award winner Ed Asner about his best advice for his grandchildren and more.

By Deborah Long

Grandparents.com GRAND PERSPECTIVES series features conversations with the world’s most dynamic and noteworthy grandparents. This month, we speak with Ed Asner, who played Mary Tyler Moore’s gruff, good-hearted boss, Lou Grant, in the groundbreaking series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Winner of seven Emmy Awards – more than any other male actor – Ed Asner is currently starring with Paul Rudd and Michael Shannon in Grace, which opens on Broadway on October 4th.

What’s the most important lesson you hope to teach your grandchildren?

Self-control.  It’s important because losing control can have so many negative effects on a person’s life.  It can affect everything in your life.  Your career.  But especially your relationships.  You don’t ever want to get so carried away that you lose reason.  I’ve been deficient in this area at some points in my life, and I’d like for my grandchildren never to face those same kinds of problems.

How has your role of grandfather changed as they’ve grown?

I have seven grandkids, including my daughter Liza’s fraternal twins; the eldest of my grandkids is 12 and the youngest is 3.  Sometimes it’s been hard for me to relate to them.  I like to see unity and cooperation and I didn’t always see that when the kids were little.  But I see changes as they get older. Earlier this summer, the kids were visiting, frolicking in the swimming pool, and the pool net got ripped.  I came barreling out, asking who was responsible.  Well, no one fessed up.  So I said they could all get out of the pool.  My grandson – one of Liza’s twins – squared his shoulders, looked me in the eye and confessed.  He did that to save pool privileges for everyone else.  That showed real character.  I was impressed.

What’s the best piece of advice you learned from your grandparents?

I didn’t know my grandparents.  But there’s a film I like very much – Lies My Father Told Me – that takes place in the 1920s and centers on a little boy and his grandfather.  The boy’s father is secular and doesn’t work; the grandfather is religious and takes the boy with him every day, as he goes through their neighborhood on his horse-drawn wagon looking for, and selling, second-hand goods.  The grandfather tells stories, and the little boy knows that the stories his grandfather tells him are true in a way the father’s are not.  I always told my kids the truth about life, and I do the same with my grandkids.  And I hope they’ll remember me for always being honest with them.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Being a buffer/polisher in an auto plant.  My first job after I dropped out of college in 1949 was in an auto plant.  I never mastered the art of skim work – making something passable but not exemplary.  So, on my first day, I’m trying my best to buff and polish each piece correctly. It was hot, I was concentrating, trying to keep up, and pouring buckets of sweat.  So I went to get a drink of water, even though I was falling behind and in the hole.  The foreman yelled at me, “What are you doing? You can have water when you get out of the hole!”  So I didn’t go out for water again. I didn’t think I’d make it to lunch.  I looked around for the foreman so I could quit, but he was nowhere to be found. So, I thought I’d quit at lunchtime.  But I didn’t.  I stuck it out.  Eventually, the foreman traded me to the boots and fenders department.  I had a little more experience by that time, of course, and I did a lot better there. That first foreman was never too fond of me.

 What’s your proudest accomplishment?

That I’m a better actor now than I’ve ever been. Think of actors like musical instruments.  The music isn’t the notes on the page, it’s what comes out of the instrument.  Choose me as your instrument and the piece is going to sing.  I’m proud of that.

What’s your favorite recipe?

My first wife, Nancy*, used to make an amazing Mediterranean stew, a seafood Basque stew, kind of like paella.  It had white beans, chicken, clams and mussels and ham in it.  Absolutely delicious.

What’s the best-kept happy secret about aging?

You don’t give a s*** what other people think.  You’re freer about giving an opinion and saying what you really think.  And I know there are people who know me well who think I’m plenty free in this regard, but I’m really looking forward to developing the facility even more and just letting the guards go!

* We asked Nancy Asner if she'd share the recipe Ed mentions above.  She said that was one from their newlywed days, and she wasn't sure she could remember it.  She did volunteer two of Ed's favorites, though — Cioppino and Spanish Stew.  We suspect you'll love these as much as Ed does!

Ed Asner is an actor, producer, and activist.  He has won seven Emmy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild, in which he served as president for two terms.  Mr. Asner has an autistic son and grandson, and is a passionate advocate for Autism Speaks.


i enjoyed this article, too! The questions are very perceptive, IMO, and cover the range of issues that grandparents (and other family members) would like to hear about from someone who is a famous "actor, producer, and activist" but also, a parent and grandparent. And I love Asner's genuine, heartfelt and descriptive/detailed replies, as well. Delightful!

rosered135 on 2012-09-21 16:28:15

Deborah, I love your writing. Reading this article made me feel like I was right there, listening as Ed Asner spoke. Keep up the great work of sharing your talents! Abuela

AbuelaJan on 2012-09-21 11:19:14

Compatibility Horoscope

How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?

Find out here.