Michael Constantine

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Michael Constantine
Michael Constantine Room 222 1969.JPG
Constantine in Room 222 in 1969
Gus Efstratiou

(1927-05-22)May 22, 1927
DiedAugust 31, 2021(2021-08-31) (aged 94)
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Years active1953–2016
(m. 1953; div. 1969)

Kathleen Christopher (divorced)

Michael Constantine (born Gus Efstratiou (Ευστρατίου); May 22, 1927 – August 31, 2021) was an American actor. He is most widely recognized for his portrayal of Kostas "Gus" Portokalos, the Windex bottle-toting Greek father of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos), in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).[1] Earlier, he earned acclaim for his television work, especially as the long-suffering high school principal, Seymour Kaufman, on ABC's comedy-drama, Room 222, for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1970; he was again recognized by the Emmy Awards, as well as the Golden Globe Awards, the following year. After the conclusion of Room 222, Constantine portrayed night court magistrate Matthew J. Sirota on the 1976 sitcom Sirota's Court, receiving his second Golden Globe nomination. Constantine reprised his role as Gus Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016).[2]

Life and career[edit]

Constantine was born Gus Efstratiou in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was the son of Andromache (née Fotiadou) and Theocharis Ioannides Efstratiou (a steel worker), both immigrants from Greece.[3]

He began his career on the New York stage in the mid-1950s as understudy to Paul Muni in Inherit the Wind.[3] While in the cast, he met and married actress Julianna McCarthy on October 5, 1953; they had two children, Thea Eileen and Brendan Neil. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969, the same year that Constantine began his role on Room 222. He later married Kathleen Christopher, though they also later divorced.[3]

He studied acting with such prominent mentors as Howard Da Silva and played character roles on and off Broadway in his mid-twenties, supplementing his income as a night watchman and shooting-gallery barker. In 1959, he appeared in his first film, The Last Mile (1959). He had a small but memorable supporting role in The Hustler (1961). In 1964 and 1965, Constantine appeared on Perry Mason, both times as the murderer. He played the role of wannabe private eye Dillard in "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza", then he played Pappy Ryan in "The Case of the Runaway Racer". In 1967, he appeared in the first part of "The Judgment", the two-episode conclusion of The Fugitive, starring David Janssen. Constantine played a long-suffering anti-organized-crime agent in Walt Disney's caper film The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), where he appeared alongside Edward Herrmann and Cloris Leachman. He also played an organized crime mobster who worked for Frank Nitti in the television version of The Untouchables. In 1988, he played the estranged father of one of the main characters in Friday the 13th: the Series.

He played Santa Claus in Prancer (1989). In 1993, Constantine appeared in the independent drama Question of Faith, starring Anne Archer and Sam Neill. He played Tadzu Lempke in Stephen King's Thinner (1996). In 2002, he enjoyed an unexpected comeback as the Windex-toting Gus Portokalos in the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a role he reprised on the short-lived television series My Big Fat Greek Life, and a sequel film with the original cast, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which was released on March 25, 2016.[4]

Constantine died at his home in Reading on August 31, 2021, at age 94, from natural causes.[5][6]



Year Title Role Notes
1959 The Last Mile Ed Warner, Convict
1961 The Hustler John 'Big John'
1963 Island of Love Andy
1964 Quick, Before It Melts Mikhail Drozhensky
1966 Hawaii Mason
1966 Beau Geste Rostov
1968 Skidoo 'Leech'
1968 In Enemy Country Ladislov
1969 Justine Memlik Pasha
1969 If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Jack Harmon
1969 Don't Drink the Water Commissar Krojack
1969 The Reivers Mr. Binford
1972 Deadly Harvest Stefan Groza TV movie
1975 The Night That Panicked America Jess Wingate TV movie
1976 Voyage of the Damned Luis Clasing
1976 Peeper Anglich
1978 Summer of My German Soldier Harry Bergen TV movie
1978 The Pirate Yashir TV movie
1979 The North Avenue Irregulars Marvin 'Marv' Fogleman
1979 Crisis in Mid-Air Frank Piovano TV movie
1983 The Forty Days of Musa Dagh Talaat Pasha
1985 Pray for Death Newman
1987 In the Mood Mr. Wisecarver
1989 Prancer Mr. Stewart
1991 By a Thread Unknown
1993 Question of Faith Unknown
1993 My Life Bill Ivanovich
1993 Deadfall Frank
1996 The Juror Judge Weitzel
1996 Thinner Tadzu Lempke
2002 My Big Fat Greek Wedding Gus Portokalos Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Hissy Fit
2016 My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 Gus Portokalos Final film role


Constantine was cast as the historical John Chisum in the 1965 episode, "Paid in Full", on the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days.[7] He also appeared in another 1965 Death Valley Days episode "The Great Turkey War".[8]

Constantine's other television appearances include:


  1. ^ Kehr, Dave (April 19, 2002). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  2. ^ Hatza, George (December 20, 2014). "George Hatza: Michael Constantine prepares for 'Greek' sequel". Reading Eagle. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Fox, Margalit (September 8, 2021). "Michael Constantine, Dad in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' Dies at 94". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 11, 2021. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2". My Big Fat Greek Wedding Movie. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  5. ^ Botch, Don (September 8, 2021). "Reading native and Emmy-winning actor Michael Constantine dies at 94 [Video]". Reading Eagle. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  6. ^ Calvario, Liz (September 8, 2021). "Michael Constantine, 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' Actor, Dead at 94". ET Online. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  7. ^ ""Death Valley Days" Paid in Full (TV Episode 1965)". IMDb. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
  8. ^ ""Death Valley Days" The Great Turkey War (TV Episode 1965)". IMDb. Retrieved July 7, 2022.

External links[edit]