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In our in-depth interview with Emmy and Golden Globe multi-winner Ed Asner, we discuss his upcoming projects as well as his one-man play starring as FDR. Ed shares his thoughts on the current political environment and his ideas on what needs to change. We also discuss his charitable work with Autism Speaks, as well as his long list of achievements and accomplishments. For more information on how you can support Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.
TH: I wanted to start this interview off by telling you I told my family, I told my friends, I told my colleagues that I was going to be interviewing you and everyone, including myself, was genuinely excited. I think that speaks to the joy you've delivered to fans over the years.
EA: You mean to say they didn't say "who"?
TH: (laughing) They did not; everyone knows you. In fact, everyone had a big smile on his or her face. Mentos the candy is known as the "fresh maker," I think you should be known as Ed Asner the "Smile Maker."
EA: That's very nice of you.
TH: I naturally wanted to speak to you today about your career. It has been incredibly prosperous and lauded as well with your 7 Emmys and 5 Golden Globe awards.
EA: Incredibly prosperous? What a minute. That all depends on what you're dealing with here. Rewarding to its beholders?
TH: Yes, the sheer amount of roles you've played...
EA: Yes, in that respect. I thought you were setting me up for a touch.
TH: (laughing) No, not today. But I'm glad we've established those ground rules.
EA: How about I set you up for a touch?
TH: That's quite all right. I've got a $20 bill in my pocket and you're welcome to it.
EA: Well, that was easy.
TH: Well, there you go. Looking over your resume and again talking about the awards you won, I certainly think someone could divvy up your career into 5 other actors and they would have very illustrious careers. I know you're touring the country with your one-man play FDR. I also know that you've finished the upcoming films Should Have Been Romeo and Let Go. To me, it appears that your career never stops, not even for a nanosecond. Your love of acting is obvious, the question I have is: What keeps that fire burning so intensely for you?
EA: Well let's put it this way; I'm never so much in love with myself as when I act. I like myself so much more.
TH: Is it the embodiment of the characters or the exploration of the characters?
EA: It's the fact I'm practicing my craft and hopefully I'm learning every time I practice.
TH: I would like to speak more to you about your play FDR. That's a very exciting one-man show you're doing and you're out on stage for nearly two hours by yourself. FDR is an incredibly interesting President and he served more terms than anyone else.
When you're on stage with a production run that long, I know a lot of actors like to lock into their performance and they want to carefully recreate it each night. I know that other actors like to put in more layers, more complexities to keep things fresh. What's been your strategy as far as attacking the character and performing it each night?
EA: I don't know if that's my strategy. But the goal, in my mind, is to say something, say everything, as if it's never been said before. For those who've heard me say it before, fill them with awe and that they couldn't believe I could say it that way. Your quest is to be heard and to put your listener into such a position that he's comfortable, yet not too relaxed.
TH: Right, so that everything feels very organic and as you stated, it's as if you're saying it for the first time.
EA: To make them on edge and yet eager for more.
TH: Craving more as you said and anticipating the next line. Seeing the character arc and obviously, the progression through his life.
EA: And feeling a little fear as to what I might say next.
TH: I did some studying on FDR as he's one of our most amazing Presidents and I'm sure you did too as well. One interesting fact I found was that he was more afraid of dying in a fire than assassination.
EA: Oh, yes.
TH: Because of his Polio, he would practice for hours on how to crawl his way to safety. I found that pretty amazing.
EA: Crawling of course, would be the safest way to do that. You'd have the most oxygen there.
TH: Agreed. Did you find out anything in your research that you found particularly noteworthy or something you did not know about the man before you started playing the role?
EA: You never think of FDR, until you're forced to, as him being funny. He's such a godhead that you automatically separate out the humor when you're thinking about a godhead. Buddha was funny too though I'm sure; with that smiling face.
TH: Certainly "Maitreya Buddha," the happier and better known Buddha. So FDR's humor surprised you?
EA: Constantly. I discovered more and more of it: the fact that he was a trickster. He could dissemble as well as he did; that's a good politician of course. I wish our President would dissemble more.
TH: I also find it interesting that even though he attended Harvard, he was a "C" student. So obviously that doesn't dictate your sense of humor or your ability to craft jokes.
EA: Oh boy, was he circulating. Well, a "C" student; he knew how to triumph over that, didn't he?
TH: Absolutely. Another fun fact is that I actually had the pleasure of interviewing with you for your 1994 television show Thunder Alley.
TH: I did. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous. I felt like I was like an AA pitcher being forced to pitch to Babe Ruth.
EA: (laughing) Where were we?
TH: It was on the CBS lot. I found you much like today, very engaging and very funny. I think what I respected most about you was that you were very sincere and very genuine. You've had so much success, my question for you is despite all of that success, how do you stay so grounded, so humble?
EA: I place myself in those areas which don't permit me to be anything other than humble. I don't circulate with the rich and from the get-go, I've wished to be or am usually associated with the average man; the "C" students.
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