He’s turning 90 on November 15, and Ed Asner shows no signs of slowing down. “Not as long as I can still lift my arms up to my head,” he exclusively told Closer Weekly in an interview for the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “It’s getting more difficult — I can’t reach beyond my head, but if I can scratch my head, I can still work.”

That’s exactly what he’s doing with a role as a cranky newspaper publisher in the upcoming USA action-drama Briarpatch, a Bourne Identity spinoff starring Rosario Dawson. “I suppose you can say my character is comic relief,” Ed says. “But he’s a mean son of a bitch.”

Ed Asner at the 1976 Emmy Awards With the 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' Cast

The part is a throwback to Ed’s most popular alter ego: gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant. “He was honest and he cared,” Ed says. Playing Lou on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970–1977 was “a joy,” he adds. “We always wanted more.” He got his wish when the drama Lou Grant ran for five more years. In all, Ed won five Emmys as the character.

Offscreen, Ed’s been divorced twice and has four grown children — daughter Kate, daughter Liza, son Matthew, and son Charles. So what’s the greatest lesson he’s learned over the years? “Hold your temper and be patient,” he says. “I people give you respect, the least you can do is give them patience.”

As for a birthday wish, “I want another 90 years!” Ed laughs. “I have a few more roles I want to play, and if the good Lord is in a generous mood, I can show the world what I can do.” After all, he says, “I love my work. It’s not work — it’s pleasure. Showbiz is sexy!”

Ed Asner at the 'Up' Premiere in 2009
Picture Perfect/Shutterstock

Years later after rising to fame, Ed is thankful for the career he’s had — though he isn’t shy to say he isn’t done yet.

“Well, I’ve got to pay off my bills,” he exclusively told Closer Weekly in a separate interview about his career, using a tone like the one we’ve come to love him for. “I hit a dry spell when I first started out. I used to get the Los Angeles Times on Saturday night to look at the Want Ads for Sunday. I never could find anything else that I was suited for, and I didn’t have the adequate preparation to apply for the jobs, so I limped on until I finally began to make some money — and I haven’t had to go back to the Want Ads yet.” After a pause, Ed let out an ironic laugh, “I’ve just been around too long for people to avoid me.”

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