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Michael Constantine (1927–2021), “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” dad

by Linnea Crowther

Michael Constantine was an actor best known for playing Toula’s father, Gus Portokalos, in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and its sequel.

Decades-long acting career

Constantine’s acting career began in the 1950s, with early film roles in “The Last Mile” (1959) and “The Hustler” (1961) and appearances on TV shows including “The Lloyd Bridges Show,” “Bonanza,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and “I Spy.” He costarred as the high school’s principal in “Room 222” from 1969 to 1974, winning a Primetime Emmy Award for his supporting role. Constantine continued to make frequent TV appearances as well as take roles in movies including “The North Avenue Irregulars” (1979), “Prancer” (1989), and “Thinner” (1996). But it wasn’t until late in his career that Constantine took the role that would make him highly recognizable to moviegoers, playing the dad who used Windex to cure everything “from psoriasis to poison ivy” in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002). He returned 14 years later for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (2016).

Notable quote

“’My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ was far and away my favorite film role. We never expected the first film to be that successful. I used to say to people when we were shooting the first one, I hope at least that this breaks even so that we can do a sequel and all work together again. I loved working with all the actors –Andrea Martin and Louis Mandylor and Nia Vardalos. As a matter of fact, Nia and I decided that we were each other’s favorite scene partners.” —from a 2017 interview with Hellenic News

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Tributes to Michael Constantine

Full obituary: The New York Times

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