UNION, NJ – Legendary actor Ed Asner, famous for his role as Lou Grant during the 1970s and early 1980s, was in Van Gogh’s Ear Cafe on Monday shooting a scene for an upcoming series.
Series producer Margaret Fontana grew up in Union and graduated from Union High School in 1993. “I was always involved in theater and television in high school,” she said. She studied radio and television at Rider University.
Fontana said the Perara family, now owners of Van Gogh’s Ear, were her neighbors growing up. She said she babysat for owners Sarah and her brother Rob. “We had a film meeting here sometime back, and I asked Sara and Rob if we could film in the Cafe. It’s important to me to keep the Union connection.” Fontana said Van Gogh’s Ear was a perfect fit for the scene.
The show being filmed, “#DBX: The Series” combines biblical, artificial intelligence, addiction, trauma and family, said co-star Joseph A. Halsey. Halsey is also co-owner of Seven13 Films, with Lee Kolinsky. “#DBX: The Series” is produced by Seven13 Films.
According to Seven13 Films’ website, the series follows Doyle Burk, a junkie, a war vet, and a human blood bank for his symbiotic counterpart Mac 5, an artificially intelligent cyborg. When Doyle escapes the confides of “The Institution,” he must figure out how to severe his symbiotic relationship from Mac 5 before being recaptured.
Asner, who will turn 90 in November, stared as Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series Lou Grant, making Asner one of the few television actors to portray the same leading character in both a comedy and a drama. Asner has won more Emmy Awards for performing than any other male actor (seven, including five for the role of Lou Grant). In 1996, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
Asner’s daughter and manager, Liza Asner, said he still keeps busy. Asner performed at the Union County Performing Arts Center in “God Help Us!” on Sunday and will continue to travel with the show. In it, Asner plays God, a wise, sarcastic, cantankerous, funny character who is offended by what America’s political leaders have done to America.
Fontana said she hopes to come back to Union to film additional scenes. “I feel a deep connection and I know a lot of great spots in town,” she said. “It’s like coming back to family.”