Ed Asner Remembers Mary Tyler Moore Show Costar Cloris Leachman: 'She Was Just Marvelous'
The celebrated actress died on Wednesday of natural causes at age 94, with countless Hollywood stars paying tribute to her. Among those honoring Leachman is Asner, 91, her costar on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Asner played Lou Grant on the series, which aired between 1970 and 1977, while Leachman portrayed landlady Phyllis Lindstrom.
"We got awful chummy, and we dug each other a lot," Asner told Entertainment Tonight. "When we first started the show, she got me to not worry about reading the teleprompter, rewind the script, improv … We did it with improv and it worked well."
"I'll carry my memories to my grave. I loved her. She was a sweet mama," added Asner.
The actor also praised Leachman's on-screen talents, explaining that she "had pride in herself and she did not like being bound down to any rules and regulations." He said: "She was a free cat. She was just marvelous, a marvelous actress. And she would come up with some wonderful ideas."
Leachman's manager, Juliet Green, confirmed her death to PEOPLE, calling the star "one of the most fearless actresses of our time."
"There was no one like Cloris," said Green. "With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic."
"She loved her children and her grandchildren ferociously. A lifelong vegetarian, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights. The family requests that any donations in her name be made to PETA or Last Chance for Animals," continued Green.
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Leachman earned two consecutive supporting actress Emmys for her Mary Tyler Moore Show role, in 1974 and 1975. While she appeared in all seven seasons of the CBS sitcom, Leachman also went solo with the character, leading a spinoff series titled Phyllis from 1975 to 1977.
"She's one of those geniuses who's capable of thinking on the spot and making it funny and making it truthful," Moore told Good Morning America of Leachman back in 2010. "I would go to no other person than she to ask for advice."