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Michael Constantine (1927-2021): 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' 'The Last Mile'


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Michael Constantine, the Emmy-winning actor from "Room 222" who also played the Windex-loving father from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," died on Aug. 31. He was 94. 

The actor’s family announced the news to the local outlet of his Reading, Penn. hometown, the Reading Eagle. In the announcement, the family stated that he died peacefully of natural causes surrounded by close family, including his sisters. He had been battling an undisclosed illness for several years, his brother-in-law, Michael Gordon, disclosed to the outlet. 

Constantine, whose birth name was Gus Efstration, was born May 22, 1927. He began his career on stage in New York in the 1950s before pivoting over to television, ultimately landing the role that put him on the map as principal Seymour Kaufman at the fictional Los Angeles Walt Whitman High On ABC’s "Room 222." The role earned Constantine an Emmy award for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1970 before the show concluded its five-season run in 1974.

 

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Constantine’s most recent claim to popularity was as Gus Portokalos in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Born to Greek immigrants himself, the role of an eccentric Greek family man was not a stretch for the accomplished character actor. The actor said in a 2016 interview that he was worried the script would be inauthentic to the actual Greek-American experience. 

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Michael Constantine's family announced that he has died at age 94.

Michael Constantine's family announced that he has died at age 94. (Bobby Bank/WireImage)

"I had to audition for the part," he recalled at the time. "Before that, I asked to read the script, because I was very leery. I didn’t know Nia then [she also penned the screenplay], and I was anxious about someone writing some Greek thing. Was it going to be baloney or was it going to be something by somebody who really knows Greeks? So I read the script and I said, ‘Yes, this person obviously knows Greeks.'"

He also noted that fans took his character’s trait of thinking the household cleaner Windex could solve any problem. However, he revealed he was "sick of Windex" after fans sent him hundreds of bottles after the film’s premiere in 2002. He was also asked to sign many bottles as well. 

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Still, that didn’t stop him from reprising the role in the short-lived 2003 sitcom "My Big Fat Greek Life" or the 2016 film sequel "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2." 

On Wednesday, actress and co-writer of the franchise, Nia Vardalos, paid tribute to Constantine on Twitter

 

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"Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend," she wrote. "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." 

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THR also notes that, in addition to his two most popular roles, Constantine studied acting with Hoard Da Silva and spent nearly two years in the "Inherit the Wind" company. After a few more roles on stage, he made his big-screen debut alongside Mickey Rooney in "The Last Mile" and went on to appear in, "The Defenders," "Naked City," "Dr. Kildare," "The Untouchables," "The Twilight Zone," "Perry Mason," "Ironside" and "The Flying Nun."

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Yeah, a likeable and oft seen character actor, even his slight appearances in THE HUSTLER were good.

He will be missed.  And maybe he did more for WINDEX than talking crows.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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This past Sunday night MICHAEL CONSTANTINE featured prominently in a 1966 episode of THE FUGITIVE; sometimes I stay up until 2 AM when "The Fugitive" airs on MeTV locally and he and Fritz Weaver were guest stars.  He played a regretful police officer who tries to right a wrong he did to Fritz Weaver.   He was only 39 then . . . how times flies!  94 is a ripe old age to reach.

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16 minutes ago, Swithin said:

Great actor, R.I.P. I loved him on the old, short-lived TV show Hey, Landlord.

 

Yes,  a really solid actor;   I like how in 50s and 60s T.V.  crime shows he would be the everyday vulnerable small business \ family man.    Sometimes even allowing himself to be corrupted,  to a degree ,   in order to protect his family and livelihood,   but when the criminals pushed too hard and asked for too much,  he would show a backbone and assist the good-guys with sending the scum to their doom.  

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This is sad news.  The mid-60's into the early 70's is when I remember  most of the TV shows during my youth.  Michael Constantine always seemed to be around in that strange flourishing of TV fare back then, and he was the kind of actor who could do anything asked of him.  He was always a familiar face, and he always delivered the goods.  Thank you, Mr. Constantine. R.I.P.

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I remember him most from Room 222, and as one of Mary's dates (the most mismatched) on the MTM Show, and a very brief stint as the lead on Sirota's Court

(Isn't it interesting how we say someone is IN a movie but ON a tv show?) 

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10 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

I remember him most from Room 222, and as one of Mary's dates (the most mismatched) on the MTM Show, and a very brief stint as the lead on Sirota's Court

(Isn't it interesting how we say someone is IN a movie but ON a tv show?) 

Yep.  And too, how an actor "played a part"  in one movie,  but "had a role"  in another.

Sepiatone

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20 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

I remember him most from Room 222, and as one of Mary's dates (the most mismatched) on the MTM Show, and a very brief stint as the lead on Sirota's Court

(Isn't it interesting how we say someone is IN a movie but ON a tv show?) 

That is interesting.     I assume the reason is that a movie is  a one time event,  while a TV show is on-going,  episode after episode.    But that is just wild speculation. 

 

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1 minute ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

That is interesting.     I assume the reason is that a movie is  a one time event,  while a TV show is on-going,  episode after episode.    But that is just wild speculation. 

 

Makes sense.  And we say, "What's on TV tonight?" 

 

9 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

Yep.  And too, how an actor "played a part"  in one movie,  but "had a role"  in another.

Sepiatone

I hadn't noticed that but it reminds me I used to notice when actors being interviewed on talk shows would talk about their characters in first or third person. Like, one might say, "I'm a barber who slashes his clients' throats," where another might say, "My character is an embittered barber who murders his clients." The third-person people always struck me as a little stuck-up. 

 

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14 hours ago, LuckyDan said:

Makes sense.  And we say, "What's on TV tonight?" 

 

Yeah, but my Dad hated it when he'd ask, "What's on TV ?"  And smart-azz me would answer, "A bowl of fake fruit and the rabbit ears."  ;) 

Sepiatone

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