Michael Constantine, an American actor of Greek descent, most widely recognised for his portrayal of Kostas “Gus” Portokalos in the film ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, was born on the 22nd May 1927 and turns 94 today!
Everyone’s favourite line from Gus Portokalos:
“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek.”
Constantine was born Gus Efstratiou in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of Andromache Efstratiou (née Fotiadou) and Theoharis Ioannides, 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). 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.
In 2002, he enjoyed a surprising 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.