Michael Constantine (born Constantine Joanides), the Windex-using father known as Gus Portokalos in Nia Vardalos’ “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” passed away on 31 August, aged 94. His agent confirmed that he died of natural causes.
Constantine’s Gus was a patriotic Greek who would find the Greek root for any word, even kimono, and had some of the funniest lines in the highest-grossing romantic comedy. According to Constantine’s character, the Greeks invented everything, even Italy.
He also performed his role as a Greek patriarch in the CBS series, “My Big Fat Greek Life” and the 2016 sequel, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2”.
The Los Angeles Times wrote his performance in the sequel was an “appealing mixture of bravado and bumbling” as “a man claiming cultural superiority who doesn’t know how to use a computer mouse”.
Before success in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, Constantine played principal Seymour Kaufman in high school comedy “Room 222” which ran from 1969-1974. He was nominated for an Emmy for this role in 1970 and 1971, winning the first time.
During the 1960s, he guested on numberous shows such as “Dr Kildare,” “The Untouchables,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Perry Mason,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and more and held recurring roles in NBC’s comedy “Hey Landlord” (1966-2967) where he played Jack Ellenhorn.
He played in “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” (1976), and also got his own show as Judge Matthew Sirota in “Sirota’s Court”, an NBC comedy which ran for 13 episodes.
In “Voyage of the Damned” (1976) he played a German Jew seeking to flee the Nazis, alongside Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner and Lee Grant. In “Summer of My German Soldier” (1978) he played the father and also held a small part in “Roots: The Next Generations” (1979). He is also memorable for his supporting role as Big John in Robert Rossen’s classic, “The Hustler”, starring Paul Newman.
Constantine was born in Reading, Penn, and began his career on the New York stage though he also made a single appearance in “The Big Story” (1949) on NBC. His mentors included Howard Da Silva.
He appeared in performances in Broadway while working as a night watchman and a barker in a shooting gallery to make ends meet.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” was his final credit.