October 22, 2008
Ed Asner Explores The "Generation Gap"
Some years ago, actors Ed Asner, Edward James Olmos and yours truly were engaged in a heated discussion. This was following a Television Critics Association session. We disagreed about everything and I do mean everything. When our chat was over and we were departing in opposite directions, Mr. Asner turned to me and said, "Look at that. We had a long talk and although we didn't agree on anything, we didn't become annoyed and didn't yell and we became friends. Isn't that remarkable?"
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I had to agree. We were all cordial. On that, we could be in accord. Different points of view, irreconcilable viewpoints, yes, but quite honestly, I'm really not used to arguing with someone who doesn't yell, or raise their voice when trying to make a point! Not so with Ed Asner or Olmos. The men were calm, cool and collected (as the saying goes) and I've admired them both and been fond of each one ever since.
It's been some time since I had seen the men. Recently though, Asner and I reminisced about our previous talk when discussing his new role as an uncompromising, independently, self-ruling grandfather in "Generation Gap" coming to The Hallmark Channel on Saturday at 9 p.m.
Appearing with Asner in major roles are actress Rue McClanahan and Ralph Waite recently seen in CBS's "NCIS" as father of star Mark Harmon, Alex Black and Catherine Mary Stewart. The film concerns a teenager who is driving all those around him a little crazy with his continuing antics and attempts to see how far he can push the limits.
He "gets" only so far, when his grandfather, a Colonel World War II veteran, tough and unyielding, takes the boy in hand and along with his former war buddies turns the young man's life around – and in the process his own as well.
RA. Were you in the service in real life?
EA. I did serve in the Army Signal Corps. I was a radar repairman, but we, the 180-man post in Korea, were never attacked. I used to be so frustrated when nobody could fix the radar when in the basketball field. I wanted to learn how.
RA. I hear you love traveling on ships. Is that true?
EA. I do love traveling. And ships. Being on a cruise ship trip is living in the lap of luxury. Cruise ships offer theater to their occupants and so much more. Do you know that people take cruises down to the Amazon to splash around in the water?
RA. Where would you like to go that you haven't been yet?
EA. I haven't been to Africa or South Africa. I'm not as mobile as I once was. Can't walk around museums anymore. It's too much walking for me since I've had six hip operations. I'm keeping my orthopedist busy.
RA. Why have you needed so many operations?
EA. I was filming in Spain and a fuse box ignited. A wardrobe man and I quickly grabbed an actress to carry her away from there when I tripped over a cable and landed in the hospital. So, I imagine I'll always have the problem. Actually, I can't do all the physical things I once did.
RA. Is it true that when you were a young man you played basketball or managed a team that traveled throughout Europe?
EA. I played basketball in high school and then organized a basketball team, which I then managed. We became champions and then because we were we winners we traveled throughout Europe playing their teams. It was an exciting time for young men.
RA. You seem to have been born an organizer. Do you attribute your becoming the president of The Screen Actors Guild due to your coordinator skills?
EA. Oh! I wouldn't say that. I'm quite vocal about all my views. I keep informed and I get tons of e-mails, so I imagine that people know I work for causes in which I believe.
RA. You are well-known for your steadfast opinions, yet people I have met whose views are totally different from yours still are pleased to say they are your friends. How do you manage to do that?
EA. When I first came to L.A., I didn't have any friends. The staunchest, sweetest conservatives were accommodating and showed me much courtesy even when I was jobless. I've learned that people may not always share your opinions, but that doesn't mean you can't be friends.
RA. Now that your film is airing in a few days, what keeps you busy?
EA. I read constantly – plays and novels. At the moment I'm into reading Human Smoke by Williams, which is non-fiction. I watch films and my two cats keep me going. I also donate time to the autism cause. I'm fortunate; I have an assistant, Patty, who takes a load off my back.
RA. Of what are you most proud?
EA. That's easy. My kids, my heritage, my work with autism and I'm proud of my career in that I'm surprised at all the success I've experienced.