MacLeod was an ally to his co-stars in any scene, recalls Asner, who played talkative WJM-TV news director Lou Grant in the groundbreaking comedy that aired on CBS from 1970 to 1977.
“He made it all easy,” Asner said.
Off the set, MacLeod was also generous. In the years after The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Asner and his wife were having marital problems. MacLeod and his wife, actress Patti Kendig, were keen to reach out to the couple out of friendship and concern.
“I realized that every time I got tense, (MacLeod) was there to soothe him,” Asner recalls. “I cherished his friendship. “
MacLeod himself looked a lot like the character he played in “Mary Tyler Moore,” the mildly neurotic writer Murray Slaughter, Asner recalls. “They modeled the character pretty well on him,” Asner said of the show’s writers.
MacLeod may have sealed the deal for Asner to land the role of Grant. MacLeod was next to read for the role when Asner first auditioned for series creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. At the time, MacLeod had gained attention with his guest star role as heavy (“Big Chicken”) in the CBS crime drama “Hawaii 5-0”. He had also been a regular in “McHale’s Navy” from 1962 to 1964.
“Himself, when he was there for his interview, told them he thought he was more right about Murray than Lou,” Asner recalls. “It made the job easier for me to get. “
My heart is broken. Gavin was my brother, my partner in crime (and food), and my comedic conspirator. I’ll see you in a moment, Gavin. Tell the gang I’ll see them in a moment. Betty! It’s just you and me now. pic.twitter.com/se4fwh7G1G
– Ed Asner (@TheOnlyEdAsner) May 29, 2021
MacLeod’s friends were happy for him in 1977 when ABC’s “The Love Boat” made MacLeod a celebrity in its own right. He had been “overshadowed” by the wealth of talent of “Mary Tyler Moore,” recalls Asner, a row of murderers that included Moore, Ted Knight, Betty White, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel.
“He was a very strong and capable man,” Asner said, noting that MacLeod was graceful in his fame. But the “Love Boat” did not join Asner to become active in Screen Actors Guild politics in the years following “MTM”, as Asner did while leading the spin-off. dramatic “Lou Grant”.
MacLeod “was a dedicated member of the union, but he was not a Confederate,” said Asner, who served as SAG president from 1981 to 1985.
During the “MTM” era, Asner and his wife had a semi-regular series of Friday night dinners with MacLeod and Kendig and Ted Knight and his wife. These were treasured memories for Asner that cemented what has grown into lasting friendships.
“She was a lovely soul who will make the sky brighter,” Asner said of MacLeod.
(Top photo: Ed Asner and Gavin MacLeod in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”)