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EDWARD ASNER

So...

This is hard.

It's been a bit of a stressful weekend, as my father went into the hospital with chest pains. A stint that had been replaced last year had failed and was replaced again Saturday morning during an angioplasty. I've been concerned, worried. But the procedure seemed to go well, and he was set to go home today. We seemed to have dodged a bullet.

But there was a second gun.

I slept in today. I woke up to two pieces of news:

1. My dad was good. Solid. My sister picked him up at the hospital and took him straight to breakfast. (My mother was annoyed at not being included - but that's a whole other story.) He's home now. I've talked to him. He sounded cheerful. All good.

2. Ed Asner had passed away.

I spent most of the day doing laundry and other mundane tasks. Life goes on, right? It has to. But it's been difficult getting my head around the whole thing. I've gotten many calls and texts today, offering condolences as if I were part of the Asner family. Folks seem to know how close I felt to Ed. But I don't want to exaggerate. Ed was my friend. I hope he knew I was his, as well. But I haven't talked to him in at least a couple of years. (You can partially blame that on the pandemic, I suppose. There are a lot of people I've lost touch with. If anything, this is a reminder to GET in touch. And I'm going to make an effort to do that.) In any case, there are many, many people who knew Ed better than I did, who were closer to Ed than I was.

Nevertheless, at the risk of turning this post into my own self-aggrandizement, I am going to spend a few paragraphs here on the subject of the Ed Asner that I knew and loved.

I was a fan of Ed's long before I met him. Like many, many people, he first entered my awareness playing Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Later, I got a kick out of picking him out of reruns, where he usually played the heavy in such series as The Wild Wild West and others.) But as Lou, Ed was simply brilliant. One of the truly classic scenes in all of television is the scene in the TMTMS pilot, where Lou interviews Mary for a job. Do yourself a favor and view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj286uBKCu0

That scene had a major effect on me, even seeing it as a kid.

Now, having just rewatched it, the genius of the writing and the two performances still knocks me out. But there was something else about Lou and Mary. Watching their interactions was a bit like watching my parents. The connection in my mind between Lou and my dad was especially strong.

Ed and my father were two Ashkenazi Jews from the midwest. My dad was from Chicago; Ed, from Kansas City. They were gruff AND loving. They even had mannerisms in common. There was much more, I'm sure, that they DIDN'T have in common. But something connected the two men in my mind. And, meanwhile, my admiration for Asner as a performer knew no bounds. When I saw him in the Lou Grant series, in Rich Man, Poor Man, in Roots, that admiration only increased. When I learned of his activism - and the price he paid for it - that admiration shot through the roof.

Years later, when we had begun pre-production on GARGOYLES, I thought of Ed Asner - or of Lou Grant, at least - as the inspiration for Hudson. In fact, when we held auditions for the role, I wrote at the bottom of the character description that "Hudson hates spunk." This was, of course, a variation on Lou's classic line from the above job interview scene. Now, to be clear, I never imagined we'd get Ed to play the role. I figured he was way too big a star for us to land. But low and behold, a few days later, Ed came in to audition for the part. Later, he told me that when he read the character description, he was initially thrilled. The "Hudson hates spunk" line made him feel like he was a lock to land the role. Then a couple minutes later, he thought that if he didn't land the role it would really be awful. But of course, he immediately understood the character and nailed his audition... only for Jamie Thomason and I to throw him a curveball, asking him to do it again in a Scottish accent. He nailed that, too.

Working with Ed was a joy. He was fun and funny and so supportive. In addition to playing Hudson (and Burbank and Jack Danforth/Dane) on Gargoyles, I also cast him as recurring characters on Max Steel (Chuck Marshak), 3x3 Eyes (Grandpa Ayanokoji), W.I.T.C.H. (Napoleon the talking cat), Young Justice (Kent Nelson) and Rain of the Ghosts (Joe Charone). When casting Peter Parker's late Uncle Ben in The Spectacular Spider-Man, Ed was the only person I ever considered. He always brought so much to each and every role.

And more than that he was a great friend to me. After the first season of Max Steel, when I couldn't find a job for over a year and thought I might have to give up on my writing career, Ed was there, offering me support. We had lunch at Musso & Frank's. He looked at pictures of my kids out of my wallet and told me to laminate them. He introduced me to his son, Matt Asner, a producer. He didn't allow me to wallow in self-pity or to badmouth guys who I believed had done me wrong. He just reassured me that I had ability and would find my way through. He was, in essence, my work dad.

So today, as you might imagine, has been complicated. My dad is home and healthy. And Ed is gone. I'm grateful and sorrowful. And struggling. But life goes on. It has to, right?

Finally, I'm going to quote Hudson from Gargoyles. In "The Price," an episode that spotlighted the character, Ed as Hudson told Xanatos: "A friendly word of advice: True immortality isn't about living forever, man. It's about what you do with the time you have. When all your scheming's done, what will be your legacy, Xanatos?"

I think we all know that Ed Asner did amazing things with the time he had. And though we'll miss him dearly, his legacy is clear and shining.


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Abdullah Khan writes...

Hey Greg,
Q1)I wanted to ask regarding the castings for Young Justice Outsiders, How did you and the crew decide to give the roles of Geo-Force, Terra, Halo, Forager,Cyborg and Darkseid to Troy Baker,Tara Strong,Zehra Fazal,Jason Spisak, Zeno Robinson and Michael Leon Wooley?
Q2)And for replacments decide on David Kaye and Greg Cipes to be Vandal Savage and Beast Boy, i know regarding Greg as Beast Boy u did not cast him in the initially because u did not want any Teen Titans reprisals at the time so what change your mind instead of picking another actor because Logan Grove was unavailable for S3?

Greg responds...

Geo-Force - Brandon had worked with Troy Baker before and knew he was a good candidate to play Geo-Force/Brion Markov. We did have him audition (against no competition) just to confirm he could do the Eastern European accent without it sliding into Boris Badenov territory. He could. So we cast him. And he's been great as Brion and other characters ever since.

Terra - We held auditions for Terra/Tara Markov, and Tara Strong just nailed it.

Halo - I knew I wanted to cast Zehra Fazal as Halo / Violet Harper / Gabrielle Daou, and basically wrote the part with her in mind. Brandon and Jamie and I went to see her in a stage play, where she played multiple roles, so that they could confirm just how great and versatile she was.

Forager - With Wally West largely out of the picture, we knew we wanted to find something else to keep Jason Spisak in our cast. Brandon thought Forager would be a good bet and talked about the character with Jason, who loved the idea. We hired him without any try-out, and he was instantly great.

Cyborg - We held auditions for Victor Stone/Cyborg under the false flag of a pretend show with a fake character name. Zeno Robinson was our clear favorite for the role. We brought him in for a callback (with no competition), mostly to see if he had the versatility to play any other roles (such as Steel). We decided then and there that he was our Vic, and seeing Brandon and I in the Control Room, he had already begun to suspect whom he might be playing. We told him he had the role and confirmed he was playing Cyborg, and he practically BURST right in front of us. It was great fun.

Darkseid - We had already discussed a number of potential people to find YJ's version of Darkseid, when Brandon remembered Michael Leon Wooley's performance of the character from Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Jamie and I listened, and immediately Michael had the job.

Vandal Savage - We held auditions to see who could do the best job performing in the giant shoes that the late, great Miguel Ferrer had left behind. David Kaye was the clear favorite.

Beast Boy - When it became clear that Logan Grove was not going to be available to us, we talked with Jamie about who might be able to take his place. After we described the character's journey in Season Three, Jamie suggested Greg Cipes, knowing that we might not go for it, but feeling like Greg'd be perfect for the part. I'd worked with Greg on W.I.T.C.H. and agreed, but our upper management had been pretty adamant about us not using Titans' lead actors to play the same roles they had played on Titans. (Other Titans' actors were kiboshed for certain parts for that reason.) It was something Brandon and I initially agreed with way back in Season One, but by this time, we felt YJ had established itself as its own thing, and we were less afraid of comparisons. And for whatever reason, TPTB were fine with us casting Greg as Beast Boy.

Response recorded on August 18, 2021

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B. B. writes...

Hello. Humble W.I.T.C.H. fan here.

One of the most mysterious characters for me is the Mage. So my questions are:
1.) Was the Mage a Guardian before C.H.Y.K.N.? (She is seen in the first season holding the heart of Kandrakar.)
2.) Why does the Mage's appearance change so drastically from the flashbacks to the current time? (She goes from a long haired beutiful woman to a bald and scary-looking hag. Is there a reason for that?)

Greg responds...

1. It's been a long time, but I don't believe so.

2. I just don't remember. Sorry!

Response recorded on July 26, 2021

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Mr. Red writes...

Hello, huge fan of your work, i have rewatched the first 13 episodes of Young Justice Outsiders 6 times over as i write this. I wanted to know, why is Greg Cipes voicing Beast Boy? Now i am a big fan of his and of course the his previous work as Beast Boy.

But i wonder what happened to Logan Grove, did he not want to reprise the role? Or was he to busy with other work? or was it already planned to have Greg come in and do the voice?

Greg responds...

We were looking forward to using Logan in Season Three, but were told that Logan was no longer acting and was attending Annapolis as part of the U.S. Navy. So after some discussion with our director Jamie Thomason, Brandon and I agreed that given where we were heading with the character, Greg Cipes (whom I'd enjoyed working with on WITCH) was our top choice to replace Logan as Garfield, irrespective of Greg's history with the character.

Response recorded on July 26, 2021

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Anonymous writes...

did you know that your show is awesome?

Greg responds...

I kinda feel like it's awesome. It is to me, at least. It's the kinda show I would like to watch. But I'm happy to have you and others confirm that. Very happy.

Um... which show are we talking about?

Response recorded on July 26, 2021

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Anonymous writes...

Hello! A big fan of your work here. The WITCH series was a part of my childhood I’ll always remember. I have several questions concerning this show (mainly the old generation):
1. How old were the previous Guardians when Nerissa cracked, Cassidy died and everything went downhill? Were they the same age?
2. Did you have some last names in mind when creating the characters or they were always simply Nerissa, Halinor, etc?
3. How was the disappearance of Cassidy/Nerissa explained to the public (their relatives, friends)?

Greg responds...

1. The five members of CHYKN were all approximately the same age as each other.

2. The names came from the comics or the first season. I don't think I named any of them myself.

3. She didn't disappear; she died. Or at least that's what I recall. It has been awhile.

Response recorded on July 26, 2021

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Wreck 55 writes...

Just want to start off by saying I watched W.I.T.C.H. for the first time when I was 5 years old and I'm turning 20 next month. I still, to this day, enjoy the show so much so that I can quote from it word for word at my big age (whether thats sad or impressive I'll let you decide). I've also only recently discovered that you, the same guy who had a hand in making my favourite show (W.I.T.C.H.), also had a hand in making another show I love (YJ) - so thank you for bringing me such joy! And thank you for managing to bring YJ back to our screens, I am eagerly awaiting it's return :)

I am aware that one of the main reasons that YJ was able to come back was because fans endlessly binged watched it on Netflix, so I was wondering whether there is any way that you, or we as your fans, could get W.I.T.C.H. on Netflix so that it could possibly enjoy the same successful return? I strongly believe that if the show is put on a platform where it's popularity can be measured, the necessary people will see that the show is worth investing in again. A friend of mine (who's a bit of tom boy and who absolutely LOVES YJ) agreed to watch W.I.T.C.H. because I pestered her to. Three days later she came up to me and demanded to know who Raphael Sylla was and why there were only two seasons of the show - and shes the same age as me!

I also have other bits of evidence that suggest W.I.T.C.H. would have fruitful ratings were it to return to TV, such as countless online petitions by fans asking for a season 3 and also the fact that Yen Press has acquired the rights to remaster and reprint all issues of the comics as graphic novels - which could not only draw previous viewers back to the beloved show but also attract a whole new audience that have never even heard of W.I.T.C.H.. After all, the show did end twelve, nearly thirteen years ago.

Greg responds...

You give me too much credit. I didn't "get" YJ on Netflix. I took advantage of it, once it was there, guiding fans to binge. But I have no ability to "get" a series on to any particular service, channel or network. WAY ABOVE MY PAYGRADE, I'm afraid.

If enough FANS request WITCH for Disney+, maybe they'll listen and put it there. (Netflix is corporately unlikely for WITCH. But Disney+ might be a real possibility.

Response recorded on July 23, 2021

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Dercio Lichucha writes...

Hello Greg,

I’m a huge fan of your work but I need to ask. Who do I speak to about rebooting childhood favorites like W.I.T.C.H ? I LOVE THAT SHOW.
It deserves many more seasons than just two.

Greg responds...

Disney, I guess. It would help if you could view it on Disney+, and I believe subscribers can request that they include it on the service.

Response recorded on July 14, 2021

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Jennifer Griel writes...

Hey. I was just watching one of my favorite TV shows ever, Ben 10. And while watching I discovered that you wrote not only the best episode of the show objectively, Ben 10,000, but also my personal favorite episode Under Wraps. I just wanted to say thank you. You did a great job making a great show even better. What was it like working with those guys on that show if you remember. I know it was a long time ago.

Greg responds...

I had a great time working with Tom Pugsley and Greg Klein (the latter of whom I also went to high school with). They made my freelance gigs on that series pretty easy. They also did me a big favor. I had been working on the non-union show W.I.T.C.H. for some time and was in danger of losing my union health insurance. The work they gave me allowed me to keep my coverage.

Response recorded on July 09, 2021

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Emily The Disney Fan writes...

Hello again Mr. Weisman!

I know you've made Radio Plays of Cross overs with Gargoyles, Spider-Man, and Young Justice! Which leads me to this Question if you don't mind!

Is There by chance any Other Particular Disney Animated Series, Like The ones from Disney Channel or any other the other Disney Afternoon shows, That you would like to Cross Over with 'Gargoyles'?

Greg responds...

W.I.T.C.H., probably.

Response recorded on July 02, 2021


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