'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' Dad, 'Room 222' Star Michael Constantine Dies at 94
Michael Constantine, the actor known for his Emmy-winning performance on TV's "Room 222" and for his beloved appearances in the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" franchise, has died. He was 94.
His August 31 death was first reported Wednesday by his hometown paper, The Reading Eagle.
Born to Greek immigrants on May 22, 1927, in Reading, Pennsylvania, Constantine's acting career began in the theater, including on Broadway in the '50s, where he understudied for legendary actor Paul Muni in "Inherit the Wind" (1955) and also appeared in "Compulsion" (1957).
He made his film debut in the 1959 Mickey Rooney movie "The Last Mile," but it would not be until 2002 that he would be a major part of a top-grossing film, the unlikely smash hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." The film gave him a memorable role in the form of overprotective, Windex-pushing papa Gus Portokalos, and also gave the bushy-browed, deadpan Constantine a shot at cementing his legacy by playing a Greek man for a change — he had been cast as a wide variety of other ethnicities over the years.
He was back for the film's 2016 sequel.
Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend. Acting with him came with a rush of love and fun. I will treasure this man who brought Gus to life. He gave us so much laughter and deserves a rest now. We love you Michael. 🇬🇷 pic.twitter.com/PV0sIBtaUX
Constantine had already tasted critical success many times over. Among nearly 200 roles on TV and in films, his work as Principal Seymour Kaufman of Walt Whitman High School on "Room 222" (1969-1974) led to him being singled him out for an Emmy. The show was noteworthy for its topical coverage of social issues at a time when the U.S. was in a state of upheaval over its involvement in Vietnam and the progress of the Civil Rights Movement.
Other TV work included on episodes of "Dr. Kildare" (1962), "Ben Casey" (1962), "The Untouchables" (1961-1963), "77 Sunset Strip" (1963), "The Twilight Zone" (1964), "The Outer Limits" (1964), "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1966), "Ironside" (1967), "The Odd Couple" (1971), "Love, American Style" (1972), "The Streets of San Francisco" (1973), "McMillan & Wife" (1976), a recurring part on the campy kiddie show "Electra Woman and Dyna Girl" (1976), "Quincy, M.E." (1979-1982), "The Fall Guy" (1983), "Mama's Family" (1983), "Airwolf" (1985), "Remington Steele" (1984 & 1986), "Murder, She Wrote" (1985 & 1988), "Law & Order" (1992 & 1994), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993), and his last TV gig, on "Cold Case" (2007).
He was a series lead on the short-lived "Sirota's Court" (1976-1977) and reprised his role as Gus for a TV adaptation of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" entitled "My Big Fat Greek Life" (2003).
Among his film roles, Constantine appeared in "The Hustler" (1961), "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" (1969), "Don't Drink the Water" (1969), "Voyage of the Damned" (1976), and "Thinner" (1996).
In his later years, Constantine appeared at nostalgia shows, where he could often be found autographing Windex bottles.
Constantine was married and divorced twice. He is survived by two sisters.