QA: Ed Asner on religion, politics and playing gruff Lou Grant in real life

Ed Asner will forever be remembered as the lovable Lou Grant in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," but that show is just part of a prolific career that includes an astonishing 20 Emmy nominations. The almost 83- year-old is now appearing on Broadway opposite Paul Rudd in ‘Grace,’ a play about the nature of faith and belief in God. The famously political actor spoke to Fox411 about working on Broadway, his political beliefs, and, of course, playing Lou Grant.

FOX411: So has this play changed your spiritual beliefs at all?

Ed Asner: I still maintain the same position. I don’t know if there is a God, I’m agnostic - the cheap and easy way.

FOX411:You grew up in an orthodox Jewish home.

EA: It tended to alienate me. I like being free of the dues you have to pay for religion. As a kid I had to go to school after public school every day. I became very isolated from my peers. I was not the regular Joe that everybody else was. I resented it and wanted to put it behind me as fast as I could.

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FOX411:You’re almost 83 and doing a play eight times a week. Isn’t that exhausting?

EA: I’ve certainly worked a lot harder. I do a one man show of F.D.R., which is one hour and forty minutes of just me, and I’ll be going back to that when this play closes.

FOX411: Was F.D.R. your hero?

EA:Yes, he saved us, and no one has ever been able to deny that he didn’t. Some thought of him as a dictator, some thought him not forward enough with his social legislation, but he was certainly a hell of a lot more forward on social legislation than any of the bums we’ve had in recent history.

FOX411: Do you think voters are less informed now?

EA: They’re more obedient, it’s frightening and disturbing. Of course what happens to them will be the result of their non attention.

FOX411: Why do you think that is?

EA: Well some are scared, they know what happens when you go against the establishment and we have a history of a punishing establishment. Media control certainly prevents them from gaining wide access to all the information. The glaring facts of our history is that almost every engagement since WWII has had questionable facts. It all stinks to heaven, or to hell I should say. And of course there are no leaders to lead them out of the valley of the shadow. But if enough of them get together, maybe they’ll find a leader.

FOX411: Did being on one of the greatest sitcoms ever, ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ spoil you for other shows?

EA: Well it was an excellent teacher. It drilled us into sharp, effective comic machines and it developed our tastes and everything subsequent to that was always inferior in terms of comedy. Nevertheless whatever comedy I’ve appeared in hopefully I’ve improved because of the habits, the tastes I acquired on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show.’

FOX411: You were the voice of Carl Fredricksen in ‘Up’ which is such a great movie.

EA: I knew it was good but I didn’t think it would be wrapped up in such a pretty package

FOX411: Are you gruff in real life?

EA: Ah, maybe when I’m gruff it’s to maintain the image I’ve created fictionally.

FOX411: That’s not good!

EA: Well people find it amusing.

FOX411: So people expect it?

EA: Little old ladies always used to come up to me and say, ‘Why do you treat Mary so badly?’

FOX411: Did you tell them, ‘I don’t like spunk?’

EA: Generally I wanted to say 'F.O.' Nah, they were just being cute, and I played along. Everyone should be treated as nicely as Lou Grant treated Mary.