Michael Constantine, whose long career produced an Emmy award and many memorable turns as a character actor, died Aug. 31 at his Reading, Mass. home. He was 94 and died from natural causes, his agent, Julia Buchwald, confirmed.
Constantine was best known as the fruit and Windex-obsessed father Gus Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an indie film that rose out of nowhere to become a smash hit. It spawned a sequel and a third version was in the planning stages, this time set in Greece.,
The original film from 2002 scored more than $360 million worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all-time.
But Constantine had a long career before that breakout hit. He was the school principal on the popular TV series Room 222. The role of Seymour Kaufman was a key to the show, which ran on ABC-TV from 1969 to 1974. He won an Emmy for the role in 1970.
Beyond that role, he also appeared on TV shows The Untouchables, Kojak, and Airwolf. He was also appeared as the night court judge Matthew Sirota on Sirota’s Court, a sitcom which ran for a year on NBC in the 1976-77 season. His credits also include guest roles on Naked City, Perry Mason, Ironside, “Gunsmoke and Hey, Landlord in the 1960s, and Remington Steele, Murder, She Wrote and Law & Order in the ’80s and ’90s.
On film, he was a Gypsy in the 1996 horror film Thinner, and was in prison picture The Last Mile in 1959. He was also in The Hustler (1961), starring Paul Newman; If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969); Don’t Drink the Water (1969); and Voyage of the Damned (1976).
Later, Constatine reprised his “Greek Wedding” character in a 2003 sitcom for CBS, and in the sequel to the film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, in 2016.
Born Constantine Ioannides in Reading, Pa., on May 22, 1927, Constantine also began his career on the Broadway stage. He became an understudy to Paul Muni, who was playing a character based on lawyer Clarence Darrow in Inherit the Wind, which opened on Broadway in 1955.
He went on to haver several Broadway credits before moving to television and film.
Survivors include two sisters, Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs, No memorial plans have been announced.
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