Ed Asner, who played a gruff newsman for laughs and for drama in the classic TV series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spinoff "Lou Grant" in the 1970s and 1980s and was honored with seven Emmy Awards, died on Sunday at age 91, his family said.

Asner, whose diverse credits also included a key voice role in the acclaimed 2009 animated film "Up," died at his home surrounded by his family, his publicist told media outlets.

His family confirmed the death on the actor's Twitter feed, writing, "We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully."

 

"Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you," his family said.

Asner was known for his liberal politics and his stint as Screen Actors Guild president in the 1980s when he criticized U.S. involvement in Central America during the administration of a previous head of the actors' union, President Ronald Reagan. In a career of remarkable longevity, Asner acted into his 90s.

Asner was integral to the success of the situation comedy "Mary Tyler Moore," which ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977 and boasted one of the best assemblages of actors and writers in U.S. TV history.

 

Moore starred as Mary Richards, an associate producer for a local TV news operation in Minneapolis. The short, barrel-shaped Asner played her brusque and irascible boss, Lou Grant. In the first episode, Moore's character interviews for a job with Asner's Grant but objects to prying questions about her religion and marital status.

"You know what, you've got spunk," Asner tells Moore, who mistakenly takes it as a compliment. "Well, yes," she replies. "I hate spunk," snaps Asner, who hires her anyway.

Asner was not known as a comic actor before landing the "Mary Tyler Moore" role but demonstrated deft comic timing in working with a cast that included Ted Knight, Betty White, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod and Cloris Leachman.

"I didn't really put my toe into the water of comedy until I went up to read for 'Mary Tyler Moore.' I was afraid of it," Asner said in a 1995 Montreal radio interview. "Not that I couldn't do an initial spark of humor but I didn't know how to maintain it."

The series ran for seven years and won the Emmy for outstanding comedy series three straight years starting in 1975. Asner won three Emmys for his work on the show.