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Cloris Leachman’s pal Ed Asner honors his ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ co-star: ‘I’ll carry my memories to the grave’

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For Ed Asner, his “Mary Tyler Moore” co-star Cloris Leachman was “always an energy source.”

The Oscar winner, who played self-absorbed landlady Phyllis Lindstrom in the hit ‘70s show, passed away on Wednesday at age 94.

Asner, 91, played Mary’s boss Lou Grant in the series and had a close friendship with Leachman off-set.

“She was a honey,” the actor told ETOnline on Thursday of his beloved pal. “The kind woman she was. But we got awful chummy, and we dug each other a lot. When we first started the show, she got me to not worry about reading the teleprompter, rewind the script… We did it with improv and it worked well.”

Actress Cloris Leachman (pictured here with co-star Ed Asner) passed away on Wednesday at age 94.
(Photo by Ann Clifford/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

In her lifetime, Leachman won eight Emmys, tying her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She also won an Academy Award for the 1971 film “The Last Picture Show.”

“She used what was there,” said Asner about Leachman’s unmistakable talent. “She didn’t cry about it. She had pride in herself and she did not like being bound down to any rules and regulations. She was a free cat. She was just marvelous, a marvelous actress. And she would come up with some wonderful ideas.”

“I’ll carry my memories to my grave,” Asner told the outlet. “I loved her. She was a sweet mama.”

Leachman’s most indelible role was that of Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Phyllis often visited Mary’s apartment, bringing laments about her husband Lars and caustic remarks about Mary and especially about her adversary, another tenant, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper). 

Honoree Ed Asner (L) and actress Cloris Leachman attend The Humane Society Of The United States’ Los Angeles Benefit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on May 16, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California.
(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Humane Society Of The U.S.)

Phyllis was so unexpectedly engaging that Leachman starred in a spinoff series of her own, “Phyllis,” which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1977.

Leachman, who started out as Miss Chicago in the Miss America pageant, willingly accepted unglamorous, comical screen roles during her reign in Hollywood.

“Basically I don’t care how I look, ugly or beautiful,” she told an interviewer in 1973. “I don’t think that’s what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful. I’m heartbroken I can’t be the witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ But I’d also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both.”

“I’m kind of like that in life,” she continued. “I’m magic, and I believe in magic. There’s supposed to be a point in life when you aren’t supposed to stay believing that. I haven’t reached it yet.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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