Gavin MacLeod was a versatile and reliable actor who was a very good friend to his co-stars throughout the seven-season run of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Ed Asner reported Variety in paying tribute to the television veteran who passed away Saturday at the age of 90. Gavin was an associate to his co-stars in any scene, recalled Asner, who represented the voluble WJM-TV news director Lou Grant on the groundbreaking drama that aired on CBS from 1970 to 1977. “He made everything easy,” Asner stated.
Off the set, Gavin was also lavish. In the years after the “Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Asner & his wife were having marital problems. Gavin and his wife, actor Patti Kendig, made a point of stretching out to the couple out of friendship & concern. Gavin performed a relatively minor role on ABC hit “McHale’s Navy,” starring Ernest Borgnine, but as newswriter Murray Slaughter, he was absolutely one of the stars of “Mary Tyler Moore,” performing in every one of the classic comedy’s 168ep during its 1970-77 run on CBS. Tyler Murray was wedded to Marie (Joyce Bulifant) but was in love with Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards. His desk was right next to Mary’s in the WJM newsroom, so Gavin was often in the shot during the sitcom, and Murray, like all the other roles, was richly developed a hallmark of MTM shows.
Gavin formerly tried out for the part of Lou Grant, which went to Ed Asner but claimed to be happy that he departed while playing Murray. He also auditioned for the character of Archie Bunker on “All in the Family,” but of reading the script for the initial time, he wrote in his journal, “Immediately I thought, This isn’t the script for me. The character is too much of a bigot. I cannot say these things.” When Norman Lear asked the actor to say that Carroll O’Connor had gotten the part, Gavin was relieved.
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