Hollywood was struck with unsettling news last week when it was revealed that actress Valerie Harper had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. As the entertainment industry continues to respond to the news, Ed Asner, Harper's former The Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star, gave his reaction exclusively to Entertainment Tonight.
Harper has received massive attention due to her unsettling diagnosis, which was announced in a cover story in People magazine last week. Her choice to speak out instead of concealing her fatal diagnosis, Asner says, is an attempt to be open about death in general.
VIDEO: What Valerie Harper Learned From Mary Tyler Moore
"I think death is such a funny character that we really sometimes don't know how to deal with him," he told ET's Rob Marciano. "I think what Valerie may be doing is trying to teach us to realize that it's all a part of us: That we live and we die; that we should treat death with the same reverence and respect and acknowledgement that we treat life, which is not a bad idea."
Asner, who admitted to not starting off on the right foot with Harper when they began working on Mary Tyler Moore together in 1970, stated that he was shocked to hear of the disconcerting news.
VIDEO: 'The Doctors' Preview Valerie Harper's Visit
"Talk about surprises. That was a surprise. I mean, why? She's at the peak of her career. Her Tallulah was just out of sight," the 83-year-old actor said."...How could she be given such a sentence?"
Having reconciled many years ago with Harper, who has been told by doctors that she has only three months to live, Asner also explained why he and the 73-year-old actress didn't get along upon first meeting each other.
VIDEO: Stars React to Valerie Harper's Cancer Diagnosis
"I love Valerie. I've come to appreciate her more because we came out [of] a hors de combat with each other," he assessed. "She wouldn't have even believed that that'd happened. My tortured, jealous, glass-half-empty soul. I felt jealous of Valerie and all the attention she got at the beginning of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'"
Asner's full interview with Rob Marciano will air tonight on Entertainment Tonight. Check your local listings.