R.I.P. Michael Constantine, star of ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ who appeared all over classic television

He played Principal Kaufman in Room 222 and guest starred in Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, Hogan’s Heroes and The Dick Van Dyke Show – just to name a few.

The Everett Collection

Michael Constantine will be known to many as Gus Portokalos, the eccentric father in the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding who could find the Greek root of any word and steadfastly believed Windex could cure any ailment.

While his role in one of the highest grossing comedies of all time was certainly memorable, it came at the tail end of a long and varied career.

Michael Constantine, born Constantine Joanides in Reading, Pennsylvania, began his career in show business performing on Broadway in the 1950s. He was part of the original 1959 cast of The Miracle Worker on stage and co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the dramatic prison film The Last Mile that same year. Constantine then played Big John in the Paul Newman poolhall classic The Hustler before appearing all over 1960s television.

Constantine played a doctor in one episode of Dr. Kildare and a sheriff in the memorable Twilight Zone episode “I am the Night – Color Me Black” alongside Paul Fix, George Lindsay and Ivan Dixon.

His TV credits only proliferated from there, appearing in Hogan’s Heroes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, My Favorite Martian, The Fugitive, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, The Invaders and two episodes of Perry Mason.

In 1968, Constantine played Leech in the psychedelic hippie comedy Skidoo. The film boasted an all-star cast, including Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero, and Groucho Marx.

The 1970s saw Constantine reteaming with Rod Serling in an episode of Night Gallery, guest-starring in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Kojack, and playing his most famous role up to that point — Principal Seymour Kaufman in the poignant high-school series Room 222. Constantine won an Emmy for his performance as Kaufman in 1970 and was nominated again the following year.

Constantine got his own show in 1976 called Sirota's Court. He played Judge Matthew Sirota, a night court judge dealing with the zany antics of defendants and the equally funny passion of prosecutor H.R. "Bud" Nugent, played by Fred Willard. Though canceled after just 13 episodes, Night Court would later prove just few years later that the premise was TV gold.

Constantine continued his constant TV work in the 1980s, appearing in The Love Boat, Mama's Family, Remington Steele and MacGyver, among many others.

Constantine played Gus again for the long-awaited sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 in 2016. The patriarch had an even more important role this time around as the one getting married after it’s discovered he and his wife never officially tied the knot. It was Constantine's final role.

Whether as a guest star in some of the best shows of the 1960s, in his Emmy-winning part of Principal Kaufman or as the lovable Gus Portokalos, Michael Constantine will be fondly remembered for his many onscreen contributions. He was 94.

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Jack 30 months ago
GOD Rest the Soul of Michael Constantine, ... Amen - Alleluia!
Steve2021 32 months ago
He is the real Greek Father in My big fat Greek wedding.
JL1965 32 months ago
Michael Constantine Played a small bit role as a Bail Bondsmen and is murdered by the one armed man in the final episode of The Fugitive .. He also was in the movie Thinner playing the Gypsy who places the curse on the the people who wronged his clan .. You could always notice Michael when you saw him .. RIP Sir , you were a class act ..
PatrickBrowne 32 months ago
Has Me Tv aired one of their on air tributes to Constantine? I love those.
Zip 32 months ago
I remember him best as Judge Packard on an episode of Mama's Family. He almost goes crazy having to deal with the Harper family, in particular Mama and Naomi, who were taking each other to court. He did a great job!

I remember his last lines in that episode, after he fined them for contempt of court and ordered them to each pay their own damages. He said, "Now I'm going out for a drink. And if you have any sense, Vinton Harper, you'll join me." :-D
johnnypatio 32 months ago
He was always good. Kind of man that when you saw him in something he was very recognizable like an old friend that you hadn’t seen for a while but cheered you up. Anyway, that’s what happened for me.
johnnypatio 32 months ago
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GWMitchell 32 months ago
MeTV, or SOMEONE, should add Room 222 to their schedule.
JamesB 32 months ago
Michael Constantine added something to every role; his one-time character in "The Odd Couple" of a mobster with a fondness for dogs is hilarious every time I see it.
RobertMayer 32 months ago
Next to Telly Savalas he always played the quintessential Greek.
RobertMayer 32 months ago
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Featherfetch 32 months ago
My favorite roll he did was on a two part Quincy "Walk Softly Through the Night". He played a father who was a famous clown on TV kids show and a friend of Quincy's. His son dies of an overdose from a "pill mill" Doctor. Constantine was amazing. His emotional responses, especially in his clown makeup was unforgettable for me. When I saw he passed it was this role I remembered most. R.I.P. sir.
MarkSpeck Featherfetch 32 months ago
I remember another episode of Quincy he was in, "Seldom Silent, Never Heard", where he played another friend of Quincy's, this time a fellow doctor whose son (played by Paul Clemens) was suffering from Tourette's Syndrome (the episode began with the accidental death of another young man suffering from Tourette's). This episode had a very sad ending...Clemens's character was a piano student trying out for a scholarship, and at the end, during the tryout, the Tourette's kicked in, causing him to stop playing, look at his hand, grimace and walk away. Very sad episode.

Constantine and Clemens reprised their roles a season or so later, in the episode "Give Me Your Weak", where they were part of a mob assembled by Quincy to march on Washington (a mob of people suffering from unusual affliction) to try to get an 'orphan drug' bill passed. Simon Oakland (in one of his last roles) played an obstinate Senator that Quincy needed to influence. The look on Oakland's face when he saw the mob outside his window was priceless!
Randall 32 months ago
He was one of several eligible bachelor old army buddy “catches” who dated Mary Richards and made memorable appearances on many other shows. No one ever pointed out that these guys had really bad hair, and coloring it jet black didn’t help. Grateful the hairpiece industry has improved over the decades. #TooSoon
Jon 32 months ago
RIP, Mr. Constantine! He made a memorable Sorcerer on "Electra Woman & Dyna Girl". That leaves just Frankie Avalon & Austin Pendleton living from the credited cast of "Skidoo".
Jon 32 months ago
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Snickers 32 months ago
Remember him in "Hogan's Hero's" and "Room 222". Great actor and he will be missed. R.I.P Mr. Constantine.
Moverfan Snickers 32 months ago
The last thing I saw him in, besides Hogan's Heroes reruns, was a TV-movie in 1976 called Twin Detectives. Such a stinker he played!
DethBiz 32 months ago
RIP Mr. Constantine. Always get a laugh when I see him as the judge in the Harper vs. Harper Mama's Family episode.
KJExpress 32 months ago
I have seen him in many things over the years, but I will always think of him as the principal of Walt Whitman High School. Loved Room 222 even though I was probably a little too young for it.
FANJAN 32 months ago
I especially value the old shows I saw as a child: Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, Donna Reed, My Three Sons. I am now 71 but back then I was a bewildered, terrified child of an abusive alcoholic father and an abused mother. I was molested and beaten also, but these programs gave me a hopeful glimpse of what healthy families and marriages looked like. With families declining and becoming less and less healthy all the time, I believe they can be helpful and consoling to today's children also. Please keep them on the air, and thank you for good and healthy role models that were not present in my family of origin.
Runeshaper 32 months ago
R.I.P. Michael Constantine. I never knew he played so many roles! Truly was an AWESOME man and I really enjoyed is acting as well (-:
UTZAAKE 32 months ago
Michael Constantine was great in Room 222! In Remington Steele, he provided comic relief when he played recurring character George Edward Mulch who always drove Laura Holt (Stephanie Zimbalist) to exasperation. So much so that she mostly addressed him just by his surname spoken angrily with force.
MichaelSkaggs 32 months ago
He was in an episode of "Gunsmoke" as a mountain man after the outlaws who injured his son. It was a terrific performance.
Michael 32 months ago
He really was on a lot of tv shows. I was thinking he was on the Rockford File, but it was twice on Murder, She Wrote.

A regular on "Hey, Landlord", and a guest on The Good Guys. Classic tv long forgotten.

Three episodes on Simon & Simon, different characters.

But he'll always be the Principal to me.
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