“She was a prodigious worker. She never stopped concentrating at the goal at hand, which was making a good scene, a good moment.”
Ed Asner was heartbroken when he got word on Wednesday his real-life friend and former sitcom underling Mary Tyler Moore had died at the age of 80.
Giving The Hollywood Reporter an interview not too long after he got the news, the 87-year-old actor, who played tough as nails news director Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, boasted about working with an actress who “had no rivals as far as I am concerned.”
“She was a prodigious worker. She never stopped concentrating at the goal at hand, which was making a good scene, a good moment,” Asner tells THR. “She was the most generous of everyone around her in terms of giving them their moment. She was not a camera hog.”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977.
Asner remembers reading with Moore when he auditioned for his role like it was yesterday.
“When I came back to read with Mary; Allen and Jim, our two producers in attendance, I read the scene with her like a man possessed, thinking I was duplicating my earlier reading for them without Mary,” Asner says with a chuckle. “I left and she turned to them and said “are you sure?!” They responded by saying “that’s your Lou Grant.'”
Asner, who has appeared in numerous films and television shows throughout his illustrious career, says every episode of MTM was “a winner,” but he has a few very favorites, such as the 1975 episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust”. But the episode most near and dear to his heart is the 1977 episode “Lou Dates Mary.”
After taking a long pause, Asner begins, “I always thought, after years of doing the show, of conquering Mary to be my heartthrob, and they finally gave us our chance, the producers. And she and I go on a date and we kiss and we end up laughing at each other, which signals close, but no cigar. So we remain good friends. That was nicely engineered.”
And as far as his most famous line from the series — “You’ve spunk, Mary. I hate spunk” — that couldn’t be further from the truth for Asner in reality.
“It may have worked in the show, and it got a great laugh, a very great laugh, but in real life, I love spunk,” he says. “So, I always thought what a lie, what a lie. I am sure Lou would have called it a crock of shit.”
The two actors remained friends through the years and would have fun when they got together for show reunions, but they did not talk on a regular basis, Asner says.
“She was tremendously talented and funny and beautiful,” Asner says, letting out a deep sigh. “She has no revivals as far as I am concerned. She know how to laugh at herself, she really knew.”
Asner will watch an episode of his series and laugh at his friends when they come on, but he does not “hunt” for them on TV.
As far as where The Mary Tyler Moore Show ranks in the annals of TV history: “It is one of the best, I will leave it at that,” Asner says.