Charles Sherman, Asner's publicist, confirmed to USA Today that Asner had died at home on Sunday morning surrounded by his loved ones.
"We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully," read a tweet shared to Asner's official Twitter account. "Words can't express our sadness. You can kiss your dad with a kiss on the cheek. We love you."
Asner is a well-known household name because of his hard-drinking and tough-talking character, Grant. He was the original host on CBS' "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and rose to become the headliner on "Lou Grant." He was more than just one iconic character.
Asner, a U.S. Army veteran, took on a broad range of roles over an acting career that spanned seven decades, playing burly cops and 5 o'clock-shadowed heavies in pre-"Mary" '60s dramas while endearing himself to younger generations who wouldn't know Lou Grant from Ted Baxter in 2003's "Elf" and 2009's "Up."
Five Emmys were won by Asner for his role as Grant on Mary and Lou Grant. This is a record for male actors. Asner was also the first actor to be awarded Emmys for the same character in comedy and drama series. His two Emmys were for his portrayal of unlikable, harsh characters in two historical miniseries, "Roots", and "Rich Man, Poor Man."
However, if Asner, who had more than 400 credits on screen, was only known as Lou Grant that would still be enough.
WJM's news director was a breakout star in the pilot episode of "Moore". Lou smiles at Mary Richards (Moore), polite, but determined applicant, and says, "You know? You've got spunk!"
Mary smiles back, and Lou starts an awshucks reply. Lou then turns dark and cuts her off. "I hatespunk!"
It was shocking misdirection, a rebuke of TV tropes of the era, and was as surprising as Moore's original sitcom. It was funny, but most importantly, it was funny.
Asner said fondly about Moore after her passing in 2017. USA TODAY reported that Moore had "spunk". He hated that. "No. "Not when she has it."
Asner didn't know how "Mary" would be remembered 50 years later when it premiered in 1970. He quickly recognized that it was something special. He said, "As we started to work on it and shape and round it it, it became quite clear to us that it was the Lord's work."
Over the seven-season series, Asner's Lou showed many shades: impatience with Ted, anger, and even physical violence with Ted; sweetness with Mary, and friendship with Mary. However, he did have a notable sexist streak.
Lou was a married father at the beginning of the series. Asner expertly portrays the humor and sadness of a man who has been cheated in mid-life. His hatred of his sometimes-paramour Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), was comically hilarious and a solid-gold talent pair. Mary's friendship, despite an awkward and quickly dismissed date, demonstrated real character development. Lou was not without faults but there was always the possibility of learning and redemption.