When it comes to Mary Tyler Moore, Edward Asnerdiffers with his Mary Tyler Moore Show alter ego, Lou Grant.
"She had spunk," says Asner, paraphrasing the gruff but lovable newsman who professed to hate spunk in a classic scene with Moore's Mary Richards. But does Asner hate spunk? "No. Not when she has it."
"I loved her. The world loved her — and it should have," Asner told USA TODAY hours after Moore's death Wednesday at 80. "She was an inspiration to women and she was a good example as a human being. And, of course, she was a fighter."
Moore "never missed an (opportunity) to advance us. She took good care of us," he says. "We worshipped her. We were all eager to throw ourselves on our swords for her."
When Mary premiered, Asner says, he had no idea some would eventually pronounce it the greatest sitcom ever, or that it would be so beloved 40 years after ending its run in 1977. However, "As we began to work on it and shape it and round it, it became quite revealing to us that we were doing the Lord’s work," he says.
Asner praises Moore's generosity to her fellow actors, who earned stardom and eventually their own shows, including Asner's Lou Grant drama spinoff. The cast also included Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Betty Whiteand Georgia Engel.