Screen legend Ed Asner passed away on Sunday, leaving behind a rich body of work that includes one of his final casting roles: that of Johnny Lawrence’s stepdad in multiple episodes of Netflix’s Cobra Kai.
Asner played Sid Weinberg, the grouchy, tough-love stepfather to Lawrence (William Zabka). Duty-bound by an oath to Johnny’s late mother to do what he can for the Karate Kid villain even in adulthood, Asner’s character shows up early in Season 1 to bail Johnny out of jail — only to later try to write him off as a lost cause.
Fans of the show know that Asner’s character ends up sticking around, with Johnny finally finding his footing as a present-day dojo leader. in all Asner appeared in a total of three Cobra Kai episodes in Seasons 1 and 3 (and, via Deadline, is reportedly said to make another appearance in the show’s upcoming fourth season).
His passing brought out the Asner fan in the show’s cast, too: original Karate Kid stars Lawrence and costar Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso) shared their affection Sunday on social media, with each describing the late icon as a “legend.”
“What a legend,” echoed Zabka. “What a beautiful human and special friend. I learned so much from him.”
Cobra Kai’s creative minds also paid tribute, marking the actor’s unique ability to show both the heart and the hard-nosed, grown-up logic of dealing with a rough-and-tumble kid — like Johnny — whose adult life is littered with failures to launch.
“What performer could more perfectly embody the love/hate nature of playing Johnny Lawrence’s father than Ed Asner?” Heald, Hurwitz, and fellow co-creator Hayden Schlossberg also told Deadline in a statement. “When we dreamed up the character, there was no discussion — it was only Ed.”
Known for his portrayal of Lou Grant on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its eponymous spinoff series, Asner’s influence as a 7-time Emmy winner left an indelible mark on Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos long before the streaming giant was even a nascent video-rental idea.
Asner “was the single biggest influence on my life and early career,” Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter. “I was fortunate enough to interview him when I was an aspiring journalist, just out of high school. He was brave enough to put his fame and money on the line to speak out against injustice…He defined the activist celebrity and used his platform, even if it came at a personal cost. He introduced me to great people in the years following and gave me sage advice and he was a great actor and champion of actors.”
Asner passed away on Aug. 29 at the age of 91, following a six-decade career featuring more than 400 screen appearances that included milestone genre films like Elf (2003) and Up (2009). His later career also featured key voice roles in animated projects and video games, including Batman: The Animated Series, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Season 4 of Cobra Kai is slated to land at Netflix this December.