Michael Constantine, the actor best known in recent years for playing the role of Kostas “Gus” Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding along with its sequel and spin-off series, has passed away at the age of 94. The actor who began his career at the end of the 1950s appeared on screens for over forty years before taking on the career defining role of Portokalos at the age of 82, which saw Michael Constantine instantly become a hit with audiences as the eccentric family patriarch, although his career made him one of the most seen faces of the big and small screen since his first appearance in 1959. The news of his passing after a long illness was reported by local paper, the Reading Eagle.
The Pennsylvanian born star only just celebrated his 94th birthday last month, however, back in 1921, Michael Constantine was delivered into a family of first-generation Greek immigrants and that is where his journey began. Like many actors of the time, Constantine’s first foray into acting was in the theatre where he played understudy to Paul Muni in the play Inherit The Wind in the mid 1950s. It was at the end of the decade that he gained his first on screen roles, joining shows like The Detectives and Brenner, as well as roles in movies like The Hustler and The Last Mile. Due to his size and stature, Constantine was often cast as either police officers or the criminals they were chasing.
His most notable role from his early career came with the series Room 222} in 1969, in which he played Principal Seymour Kaufman in a show about a Black high school teacher who arrives at a mostly white populated area to find he struggles to meet minds with both his students and the other teachers. Constantine’s performance was enough to earn him a Primetime Emmy Award in 1970, and he received a second nomination for the role the following year, but was beaten to it by Ed Astner, who also recently passed away two days earlier at the age of 91.
Sirota’s Court in 1976 provided Constantine’s next hit comedy series, in which he played night court magistrate Matthew Sirota. The role earned him a Golden Globe nomination, his second after being nominated for Room 222 in 1971. Sirota’s Court would turn out to be the last show that Constantine would be lead star of, instead appearing in numerous shows throughout the 1980s that were renowned for their extensive list of guest actors, such as Magnum PI, MacGyver, Airwolf and Remington Steele.
His movie appearances were few and far between, but he still managed to have some roles prior to My Big Fat Greek Wedding that made him one those actors whose face was instantly recognizable by many even if they couldn’t put a name to it. He appeared as Santa Claus in Prancer in 1989, and in the 90s starred in My Life, Deadfall, The Juror and the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Thinner. 2016’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 would be his final on screen appearance as he approached his 90th birthday. Condolences are with his family and friends at this time. This news originated at ComicBook.com.