That’s the span of time between his first appearance on the original CBS crime drama and his reprising the role on the network’s current reboot of the show. After appearing in an episode last March, the seven-time Emmy winner has his third round Monday (Oct. 1) in the same part: August March, a veteran smuggler and art expert now asked by the Five-0 police squad to help probe a lethal robbery.
“You have to pay for crime,” the warm and frequently amusing Asner tells Zap2it about returning again as the character he first played in 1975 opposite Jack Lord. He reasons that in his latest return as March, working with Alex O’Loughlin as today’s Steve McGarrett, “I have to pay for killing that beautiful girl who got dumped in the ocean. That bugged everybody.
“I have a hard time bending over under certain conditions, and the way she dropped the bag (containing cash and diamonds) in the beginning, I couldn’t reach it without looking very clumsy after my very adept killing of her. Finally, they arranged for her to drop the bag at a much higher level so I could scoop it up much more easily … the convenience of modern technology.”
Asner hasn’t seen the result of his latest “Hawaii Five-0″ work (“I will when everybody else does”), but he doesn’t believe clips from his 1975 appearance are integrated, as they were last time. And he maintains he doesn’t mind that, since the earlier way, “You see what an old man I am.
“It wasn’t until about a week ago that I remembered where ‘August March’ came from,” Asner adds. “My old assistant looked it up, and that was Saul Bellow‘s entry into literary stardom: ‘The Adventures of Augie March.’“
It’s been a bountiful professional year for Asner, still legendary — and still evident, in weeknight “Mary Tyler Moore Show” repeats on the classic-show channel Me-TV — as the gruff but lovable Lou Grant.
After guest spots on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” (which reunited him with Betty White) and ABC’s “The Middle,” he’s completed two upcoming TV movies: “Home Alone 5: Alone in the Dark” for ABC Family, and “Two In” for Hallmark Channel. He’ll also provide the voice of Santa Claus, a role he’s filled a number of times (“I own the territory”), in a Christmas episode of Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show.”
Asner is about to tread the Great White Way, too: Following several weeks of previews, he opens Thursday (Oct. 4) in a Broadway staging of Craig Wright‘s dark comedy “Grace,” casting him as an exterminator who impacts the plans of a couple (Paul Rudd, Kate Arrington) newly relocated to Florida. Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk Empire”), Arrington’s significant other in real life, also stars.
“It’s nice to participate in the power that it achieves,” Asner says of being in New York for a while. “It’s so funny. You can be a journeyman actor in L.A. and do your TV guest shots and the occasional movie, and all kinds of readings and plays within the town, but there’s that wall of the bankers in New York. Nothing happens until you do something that sets them off, such as appearing in this play.”
Asner has done Broadway before, but it’s been 23 years since his last appearance there in “Born Yesterday.” Of “Grace,” he reports, “The audience response for me has been fantastic. I’ve been very lucky.” And it’s a somewhat easier go than the other stage role he’s had lately, traveling the country in a one-man show about Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“I’m on stage there for an hour and 40 minutes all alone,” Asner reflects. “Here, the play also runs about an hour and 40 minutes, and I’m in a third of it at most. Because other people are involved, though, the clockwork and the timing are so much more important. The other way, you can react to yourself at your own risk.”