May 22, 1927
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Years active||1953–2007, 2016|
|Spouse(s)||Julianna McCarthy (1953–69; divorced; 2 children)|
He is most widely recognized for his portrayal of Kostas "Gus" Portokalos, the Windex bottle–toting Greek father of Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos), in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). Earlier, he earned acclaim for his television work, especially as the long-suffering high school principal, Seymour Kaufman, on ABC's sitcom, Room 222, for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1970; he was again recognized by the Emmy Awards, as well as the Golden Globe Awards, the following year. After the conclusion of Room 222, Constantine portrayed night court magistrate Matthew J. Sirota on the 1976 sitcom Sirota's Court, receiving his second Golden Globe nomination. Constantine reprised his role as Gus Portokalos in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016).
Life and career
Constantine was born Gus Efstratiou in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of Andromache Efstratiou (Ανδρομάχη Ευστρατίου; née Fotiadou [Φωτιάδου]) and Theoharis Ioannides [Θεοχάρης Ιωαννίδης] (a steel worker), both immigrants from Greece.
He began his career on the New York stage and in the mid-1950s as understudy to Paul Muni in Inherit the Wind. While in the cast, he met and married actress Julianna McCarthy on October 5, 1953; they had two children, Thea Eileen and Brendan Neil. The marriage ended in divorce in 1969, the same year that Constantine began his role on Room 222.
He studied acting with such prominent mentors as Howard Da Silva. He was playing character roles on and off Broadway in his mid-twenties, supplementing his income as a night watchman and shooting-gallery barker. In 1959, he appeared in his first film, The Last Mile (1959). He had a small but memorable supporting role in The Hustler (1961). In 1964 and 1965, Constantine appeared on Perry Mason, both times as the murderer. He played the role of wannabe private eye Dillard in "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza", then he played Pappy Ryan in "The Case of the Runaway Racer". In 1967, he appeared in the first part of "The Judgment", the two-episode conclusion of The Fugitive, starring David Janssen. Constantine played a long-suffering anti-organized-crime agent in Walt Disney's caper film The North Avenue Irregulars (1979), where he appeared alongside Edward Herrmann and Cloris Leachman. He also played an organized crime mobster who worked for Frank Nitti in the television version of The Untouchables.
He played Santa Claus in Prancer (1989). In 1993, Constantine appeared in the independent drama Question of Faith, starring Anne Archer and Sam Neill. He played Tadzu Lempke in Stephen King's Thinner (1996). In 2002, he enjoyed an unexpected comeback as the Windex-toting Gus Portokalos in the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a role he reprised on the short-lived television series My Big Fat Greek Life, and a sequel film with the original cast, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which was released on March 25, 2016.
Constantine was cast as the historical John Chisum in the 1965 episode, "Paid in Full", on the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Ronald Reagan. Keith Andes portrayed Rob Hunter, a former Confederate colonel who visits Kathy McLennan (Aneta Corsaut), the wife of a soldier who had been killed while serving under Hunter in the American Civil War. He discovers that McLennan and her neighboring ranchers have been defrauded by Chisum, who issued legally unclaimable IOUs when he purchased their stock. Hunter works to recover the money owed to the ranchers. He also appeared in another 1965 Death Valley Days episode, "The Great Turkey War", with Parley Baer cast as journalist Horace Greeley.
Constantine's other television appearances include:
- Cold Case (1 episode, 2007)
- My Big Fat Greek Life (7 episodes, 2003)
- Cosby (1 episode, 1997)
- Law & Order (2 episodes, 1992–1994)
- Murder, She Wrote (2 episodes, 1985–1988)
- Simon & Simon (3 episodes, 1984–1988)
- Friday the 13th: The Series ("Pipe Dream" 1988)
- Probe ("Plan 10 From Outer Space", 1988)
- MacGyver (2 episodes, 1985–1987) – Inspector Jan Messic
- Magnum, P.I. (1 episode, 1986)
- Remington Steele (3 episodes, 1984–1986)
- Highway to Heaven (1 episode, 1985)
- Airwolf (1 episode, 1985)
- The Love Boat (2 episodes, 1983)
- Amanda's (1 episode, 1983)
- Mama's Family (1 episode, 1983)
- The Fall Guy (1 episode, 1983)
- Quincy, M.E. (4 episodes) (1981 Dr Arthur Clotti – in season 6, episode 14 "Seldom Silent, Never Heard") ( 1983 Season 8 Episode 3 "Give Me Your Weak") (1979 Season 4 Episodes 14 & 15 "Walk Softly Through the Night" Parts 1 and 2)
- Fantasy Island (1 episode, 1980)
- Roots: The Next Generations (miniseries, 1979)
- 79 Park Avenue (miniseries, 1977)
- The Krofft Supershow: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (4 episodes, 1976) as The Sorcerer
- Sirota's Court (13 episodes, 1976–1977 series)
- Mary Tyler Moore (1 episode, 1971)
- Room 222 Series – Seymour Kaufman (1969–1974)
- The Streets of San Francisco – Al Davies – in episode "A Wrongful Death" (series, 1973)
- Mission: Impossible (1 episode, 1969)
- Gunsmoke (2 episodes, 1963–1968)
- Combat! (as Jacques Patron, episode "Entombed", 1967)
- The Invaders (1 episode, 1968)
- Hey Landlord (series, 1966–1967)
- The Odd Couple (series, 1970–1975)
- Dundee and the Culhane (1 episode, 1967 series)
- I Spy (2 episodes, 1966)
- The Fugitive (3 episodes, 1965–1967) (Ernie Svoboda, Ben Wyckoff, Arthur Art Howe)
- The Virginian (1 episode 1965)
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – The Indestructible Man (1 episode 1965)
- The Road West in episode "To Light a Candle" (series, 1966)
- The Dick Van Dyke Show (1 episode, 1966)
- Hogan's Heroes (1 episode, 1966) as Heinrich -episode- "It Takes a Thief...Sometimes"
- The Jean Arthur Show (2 episodes as Carnella, 1966)
- Perry Mason (2 episodes, 1964–1965)
- The Outer Limits (episode 46 "Counterweight", 1964)
- Bonanza (as a new settler whose greedy neighbor refuses him piped water for irrigation)
- Slattery's People (1964) one episode as Hungerford in "Remember The Dark Sins of Youth?"
- The Twilight Zone (1 episode, 1964) as Sheriff Koch in "I Am the Night Color Me Black"
- The Eleventh Hour as Dr. Jamison in episode "And God Created Vanity" (1963)
- The Dakotas as Marshak in "Trouble at French Creek" (1963)
- Channing (1 episode, 1963) as Nick in "No Wild Games for Sophie" (1963)
- The Lloyd Bridges Show (2 episodes, 1962–1963)
- The Untouchables (5 episodes, 1961–1963)
- Target: The Corruptors! (1 episode), 1961
- Brenner (1 episode, 1959)
- My Favorite Martian (TV series) (02 episodes, 1965–1966)
- "Movies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
- Kehr, Dave (19 April 2002). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- Hatza, George (20 December 2014). "George Hatza: Michael Constantine prepares for 'Greek' sequel". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
- "Michael Constantine Biography (1927–)". Film Reference. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
- "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2". My Big Fat Greek Wedding Movie. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
- "Paid in Full on Death Valley Days". IMDb. Retrieved September 17, 2018.