Entertainment

Michael Constantine, beloved character actor from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, passes away at age 94


The acting world is in mourning on Wednesday, as it was revealed that beloved character actor Michael Constantine had passed away at 94 years of age.

Constantine’s brother-in-law, Michael Gordon, confirmed that the actor died peacefully from natural causes, at his home in Reading, Pennsylvania (via Reading Eagle).

The My Big Fat Greek Wedding star passed away peacefully on August 31, surrounded by his family and friends, including sisters Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs.

R.I.P.: The acting world is in mourning on Wednesday, as it was revealed that beloved character actor Michael Constantine had passed away at 94 years of age

R.I.P.: The acting world is in mourning on Wednesday, as it was revealed that beloved character actor Michael Constantine had passed away at 94 years of age

Star: The My Big Fat Greek Wedding star passed away peacefully on August 31, surrounded by his family and friends, including sisters Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs

Star: The My Big Fat Greek Wedding star passed away peacefully on August 31, surrounded by his family and friends, including sisters Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs

Constantine had reportedly been battling an illness for several years, but the illness has not been disclosed.

He was born in Reading in 1927, the son of two Greek immigrants, with his father working as a steel worker.

The actor graduated from Reading High School in 1946 and would move to New York and later California to further his acting career, but he was always close to his roots.

Illness: Constantine had reportedly been battling an illness for several years, but the illness has not been disclosed

Illness: Constantine had reportedly been battling an illness for several years, but the illness has not been disclosed

‘Last week he could still sing all four stanzas of the Reading High School alma mater from memory,’ Michael Gordon said.

‘He’s always considered himself a Reading native. People would come up and say, “You’re from California,” (and he’d say) “Oh no, I’m from Reading.”‘

Constantine started his acting career on the New York stage, first working as an understudy to Paul Muni in Inherit the Wind.

Reading native: 'He’s always considered himself a Reading native. People would come up and say, "You’re from California," (and he’d say) "Oh no, I’m from Reading'

Reading native: ‘He’s always considered himself a Reading native. People would come up and say, “You’re from California,” (and he’d say) “Oh no, I’m from Reading’

He played small character roles on and off Broadway in his early to mid-20s, and appeared in his first film, The Last Mile with Mickey Rooney in 1959, and he had a small but memorable role as Big John in The Hustler with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott.

Throughout the 1960s he was toiling away in several guest-starring TV roles before landing his breakthrough in 1969 with the role of Principal Seymour Kaufman on the hit TV show Room 222.

The show was the first created by TV icon James L. Brooks, following a Black teacher (Lloyd Hanes) trying to teach his students to be tolerant.

Breakthrough: Throughout the 1960s he was toiling away in several guest-starring TV roles before landing his breakthrough in 1969 with the role of Principal Seymour Kaufman on the hit TV show Room 222

Breakthrough: Throughout the 1960s he was toiling away in several guest-starring TV roles before landing his breakthrough in 1969 with the role of Principal Seymour Kaufman on the hit TV show Room 222

The show ran for five seasons between 1969 and 1974, though Constantine would still take on guest-starring roles in shows like Mission: Impossible, Kojak and Love American Style during the show.

He worked continuously throughout the 1970s and 1980s in either pilots, guest-starring roles or small movie roles. 

He worked more prominently in movies in the 1990s with roles in Deadfall, The Juror and Thinner, before his career got a second wind with 2002’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of the most successful indie movies of all time.

Guest: The show ran for five seasons between 1969 and 1974, though Constantine would still take on guest-starring roles in shows like Mission: Impossible, Kojak and Love American Style during the show

Guest: The show ran for five seasons between 1969 and 1974, though Constantine would still take on guest-starring roles in shows like Mission: Impossible, Kojak and Love American Style during the show

Constantine played the lovable Gus Portakos, the father of Nia Vardalos’ character Toula, whose cure for everything was a few sprays from a bottle of Windex.

He would return as Gus in the short-lived 2003 TV spin-off My Big Fat Greek Life, but he worked sparingly after that, with the 2016 sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 his final on-screen role.

Vardalos took to Twitter on Wednesday to share a touching tribute to her on-screen father on Wednesday evening.

On-screen daughter and father: Constantine played the lovable Gus Portakos, the father of Nia Vardalos' character Toula, whose cure for everything was a few sprays from a bottle of Windex

On-screen daughter and father: Constantine played the lovable Gus Portakos, the father of Nia Vardalos’ character Toula, whose cure for everything was a few sprays from a bottle of Windex

‘Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend,’Vardalos began. 

‘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,’ she concluded.

She also shared a snap of, ‘Michael Constantine as “Gus” and my real dad Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, onset #MyBigFatGreekWedding2. May both dads Rest In Peace.’

Constantine is survived by his two children Thea Eileen and Brendan Neil and his sisters Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs.

Tribute: Vardalos took to Twitter on Wednesday to share a touching tribute to her on-screen father on Wednesday evening

Tribute: Vardalos took to Twitter on Wednesday to share a touching tribute to her on-screen father on Wednesday evening

Movie and real dad: She also shared a snap of, 'Michael Constantine as “Gus” and my real dad Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, onset #MyBigFatGreekWedding2. May both dads Rest In Peace'

Movie and real dad: She also shared a snap of, ‘Michael Constantine as “Gus” and my real dad Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, onset #MyBigFatGreekWedding2. May both dads Rest In Peace’



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