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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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M. writes...

Hi Greg. I have a few questions:
1) Why was Jade so absent in season 3?
2) Was there any problem with Kelly Hu?
And since in episode 325 Lian said something like "we need to find Cheshire for Daddy" (if I'm not mistaken):
3) Does Lian know that Cheshire is her mom?
4) In fact, does she even know or remember who her mom is?
And last but not least:
5) Did Will actually believe what Jade said about being a soccer mom and all that?

Greg responds...

1. Was she? Did she get significantly more time in Seasons One and Two? If so, I guess the answer is that story drives the use of our characters, as always.

2. No. She was great, as always.

3. Yep.

4. Yep.

5. Believe? I don't understand.

Response recorded on August 26, 2021

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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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Jeremy G. McLaughlin writes...

Pretty much the entire main cast of Gargoyles have popped up in some way or another on "Young Justice." But there are just a couple who have not quite shown up as of yet. Will there ever be a potential role for Salli Richardson, Frank Welker or Jonathan Frakes?

Greg responds...

Without going into specifics, Jamie and I have talked about bringing more ex-Gargoyles actors to YJ when the role seemed to fit. Sometimes we didn't have the right role. Sometimes the actor wasn't available at the right time. But there's literally no one (living or dead) from Gargoyles that I wouldn't love to get on YJ.

Response recorded on August 17, 2021

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Todd Jensen writes...

Rewatched "Grief" on DVD today.

The only new observation I have is that, this time, I noticed how Keith David did the "aged-up" Goliath; his voice sounded, while recognizably Goliath's, much older. I thought it another "mark of honor" for the "Gargoyles" voice cast.

Greg responds...

Yeah. Keith - and our whole cast - were just amazing.

Response recorded on August 16, 2021

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Todd Jensen writes...

I rewatched "Golem" on DVD.

Not many new observations or insights, but I was impressed by the late Robert Culp's performance, the way he switches the tone of Renard's voice when he's in the Golem's body. It still sounds like Renard, but tougher, more vigorous.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I found the scene where Janus was petting Bronx on the head charming. (And all the more impressive, given that he's just encountered his first gargoyle beast only minutes before. He clearly picked up on Bronx's nature quickly.)

Greg responds...

Bronx is very lovable.

Response recorded on August 16, 2021

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Sam writes...

1. For YJ S3, was the voice recording typically done with the voice actors in the same room, or individually?
2. Has the voice recording process (whether in groups or individually) changed from season to season?

Greg responds...

1. Mostly in group sessions.

2. Not until the pandemic briefly interrupted our recording process on Season Four, at which point we shifted massively to recording everyone individually, sometimes from their various homes, with all of us listening in over Zoom.

Response recorded on August 12, 2021

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Jason R. Carter writes...

How did you go about developing a voice for Ultra-Humanite?

Greg responds...

I went down to my lowest register and roughed it up. Then we used technology to deepen it further and to futz it, so that it sounded like it was coming out of an electronic voice box.

Response recorded on August 05, 2021

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InterestedFan46 writes...

I love watching Young Justice and Gargoyles, they're amazing shows! I can't wait for the 2nd half of YJ outsiders, but regarding your earlier work, what was your favorite part about producing Gargoyles?

Greg responds...

Back then... probably the voice recordings and the sound mixes.

Response recorded on July 26, 2021

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The Guy writes...

Why didn't Tim Curry return as G. Gordon?

Greg responds...

Unfortunately, Tim, who'd suffered a stroke, wasn't able to voice him, at least not at the time we needed the work done for Season Three.

Response recorded on July 26, 2021


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