Ed Asner speaks about starring in ‘FDR’ and life as an actor

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

Best known for the TV character Lou Grant in the shows “Mary Tyler Moore” and “Lou Grant,” actor Ed Asner will star in the one-man show “FDR” on Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre, 1201 Main St., Batavia, located on the campus of Batavia High School.

“FDR” is based on Dore Schary’s Broadway hit, “Sunrise at Campobello,” which ran 70 weeks on Broadway. The show starts at 7:30 p.m., and tickets range in price from $27 to $37, available at www.bataviafineartscentre.org.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk with the 83-year-old Asner about the show and his illustrious career.

Eric Schelkopf: How did you get interested in playing the role of FDR?
Ed Asner:
He’s one of the greatest Americans that’s ever lived. I don’t look like him, I don’t sound like him.

But I love doing his words. And I think that maybe some of it rubs off.

ES: How did you go about preparing for the role?
AS:
Well, I’ve always idolized Franklin D. Roosevelt. Philip Langner, the producer, asked me to do a reading of Dore Schary’s “FDR.”

I did it; it went OK, and then Philip thought, “Well, why don’t we maybe take it out as a one-man show.” So that is what you are going to see.

ES: And what should people expect when they come to the show?
AS:
A reincarnation. Even though I don’t look like him or sound like him.

ES: How many shows have you done?
AS:
This is our fourth year, and we’ve done at least 100.

ES: What do you enjoy about playing FDR and presenting it to people?
AS:
The audiences who come are, once again, paying homage to the great man. I think they become emboldened, and learn that they can expect more than they have up until now from President Obama.

ES: Of course, you’ve played many characters over the years, and one of your most beloved characters has to be Lou Grant. How did you go about preparing for the role of Lou Grant?
AS:
I was a high school journalist, and I always held journalism as an icon career.

Unfortunately, my high school journalism teacher came up to my desk one day and said, “Are you thinking of journalism as your career?” I said, “Yeah, I am.”

He said, “I wouldn’t.” When I asked him why not, he told me I couldn’t make a living from it. So, I went on to become an overnight sensation as an actor.

ES: As far as that role, were there specific things you were looking to do in that role?
AS:
I wanted to champion the underdog, non-majority opinion.

ES: Did you plan to continue acting as long as you have?
AS:
I had always planned to act until they put me in the box. I might even be acting once they put me in there.

Do you want to be a pall bearer when they bury me?

ES: It would be a privilege for me to do that.
AS:
Well, once I feel I can trust you, then I’ll put your name down.

ES: People might also recognize you as the voice of the character Carl Fredricksen in the movie, “Up.” What made you want to be part of that movie?
AS:
It’s a job. And I had never been asked to work on anything by Disney, so that’s a big honor. So, I leaped at the chance.

And they haven’t asked me back since.

ES: That’s too bad.
AS:
Well, I think they’re being very spiteful.

ES: What did you try to bring to that role?
AS:
My wonderful humanity. That’s what I’m known for. I could do Hitler, and you would say, “What a sweet guy.”

ES: Do you have any dream projects, anything that you would really like to do?
AS:
Oh, yeah, I’ve got a movie that I want to get done, but I can’t seem to get going, on the Spanish Civil War.

ES: What would your role be in that?
AS:
A minor role. Whatever I would do would not be very important. I’ll be a producer if it ever gets done.

ES: What advice would you give to a budding actor?
AS:
The world is their oyster, but it’s a chaotic business and they shouldn’t expect to get rich.

If you can raise a family off what you make, you’re ahead of the game.

The world needs drama and comedy more than ever.