‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ star Michael Constantine dies at 94!

Beloved American actor Michael Constantine, popularly known for his portrayal of the Windex-loving father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” is no more.

The actor passed away on 31st August at the age of 94. The news of Michael’s demise was not announced until now.

Michael’s family announced the news to a local outlet of his Reading, Penn. Hometown called the Reading Eagle. As per the family’s statement, Constantine died peacefully due to natural causes. At the time of his demise, Michael was surrounded by his family and loved ones. Michael’s sisters, Patricia Gordon and Chris Dobbs, were also present by Constantine’s side.

Moreover, Michael’s brother-in-law, Michael Gordon, disclosed to the new outlet that Constantine had been battling with an illness, which was not disclosed, for several years.

Other than that, the news of the “Room 222” star was also confirmed by his agent, Julia Buchwald, to the news outlet CNN.

While announcing the news to The Reading Eagle, Michael’s family recalled the star’s love for his hometown, where he took his last breath. Gordon stated that up until a few days before his death, Constantine all four stanzas of the Reading High School alma mater from memory.” Whenever somebody emphasized if Constantine was from California, he always corrected them stating ‘Oh no, I’m from Reading.’

Michael’s sister Patricia told The Reading Eagle, “He loved his hometown.” She added, “He came back here right after he won his Emmy for ‘Room 222.’ But then he was called back to California. He always loved coming home. He was very much a family person. He loved his children, his siblings, his parents.”

Born in 1927 in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, Michael’s real name was Gus Efstratiou, who was born to Greek immigrant parents. With his keen interest in acting, Michael began working in the field of acting on the New York stage.

Eventually, Constantine started to work as the under-study to Paul Muni for his film “Inherit the Wind” in the mid-1950s.

A few years later, Michael finally shone as an actor on TV when he got to play the role of Seymour Kaufman on the ABC series ‘Room 222.’ With that show, Constantine not only came to be known as a brilliant actor, but he also won an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

The show ‘Room 222’ went on till 1974. After the end of the show, Constantine went on to star in another popular comedy show titled ‘Sirota’s Court,’ which aired in 1976

During his time as an understudy with Paul Muni, Constantine got the opportunity to meet with several celebrities. This is also how he met his first wife, the Star Trek actress, Julianna McCarthy. The two got married in 1953 and had two kids together, Thea and Brendan. However, the relationship could not last long and it eventually ended up with a divorce in 1969.

Although he already was an esteemed actor, however, he wanted to enhance his acting skills for which he studied acting under mentorship of actors such as Howard da Silva.

Finally, the legendary actor got his first film in 1959 ‘The Last Mile,’ after which he played a small role in ‘The Hustler.’ His other notable works include ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘The Case of Blonde Bonanza,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ ‘The North Avenue Irregulars,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ and so on.

Michael is credited with the role of Santa Claus in the 1989 Canadian fantasy film ‘Prancer.’ The Reading resident is also known for his portrayal of Tadzu Lempke in Stephen King’s horror film ‘Thinner.’

One of the most popular role that Michael Constantine is known for is that of Windex-toting Gus Portokalos in the hit movie franchise ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ in 2002. Later, he reprised the role in the film based TV series ‘My Big Fat Greek Life.’ Subsequently, Constantine again took up the role of the proud father in the sequel of the first film titled ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.’

Released in 2016, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 was one of the last projects by Michael Constantine.

Back in 2016, Constantine talked about his role in the film during an interview. The actor was so true to the character, that he was actually worried that the script might be able to do justice to the authentic Greek-American experience.

Recalling the time when h auditioned for the film, Michael had told, “I had to audition for the part. 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.'”

Besides, the world of Television has also been blessed with the brilliance of the legendary actor. The Emmy and Golden Globe winner actor has appeared in multiple TV shows including ‘Death Valley Days,’ ‘Law & Order,’ ‘Murder: She Wrote,’ ‘Friday the 13th: The Series,’ ‘The Fall Guy,’ ‘The Fantasy Island,’ ’79 Park Avenue,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ ‘The Untouchables,’ and many more.

To pay a tribute to the Big Fat Greek Wedding alum, Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” on Wednesday tweeted, “Michael Constantine, the dad to our cast-family, a gift to the written word, and always a friend. 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.”

Nia also shared an image of Michael Constantine and her late father, which she captioned, “Michael Constantine as ‘Gus’ and my real dad Constantine “Gus” Vardalos, onset#MyBigFatGreekWedding2, May both dad Rest in Peace!”

Michael was certainly a gem for the entire nation, but mainly for the city of Reading, Pennsylvania, that lived in Constantine’s heart. In fact, the retired Reading Eagle entertainment editor, George Hatza took it to the article to share his admiration for the actor. George, who knew Constantine professionally wrote, “He was a great character actor, so when someone needed a character actor, they turned to him.”

Hatza said, “The thing is, he fit into all those roles because he really was the quintessential common man… They were immigrants. They came here, and his parents spoke Greek in the house. His mother spoke broken English. She was very intelligent, and very nice. The whole family, just kind, generous, sweet people. And it was the American dream. You bring your family to America and your son grows up to be a movie star, a TV star, an actor who everyone knows.”

According to Hatza, Michael Constantine was such a legendary star that he was deserving of an Oscar nomination.

Director Julie Cohen also shared her love for Michael’s show ‘Room 222’ as she tweeted, “The Walt Whitman faculty always trying so hard to do right by their kids, yet seeming to have such a great time . I’ll be humming that phenomenal theme song in his memory. RIP Michael Constantine.”

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