Break in Fatherliness

It’s been 15 years since he played principal Kauffman on the TV series “Room 222,” but for Michael Constantine, the recognition rarely lets up.

“A whole generation grew up with that show,” says the actor. “And it was very loved. Even though I won an Emmy for it, people don’t come up to me and say, ‘You’re a good actor.’ They say, ‘We love you.’ I’ve also had schoolteachers come up to me on the street who’ve lost track of where they’ve seen me and think I was a principal of theirs. They say, ‘I worked for you, but I can’t remember at which school.’ ”

One reason for the confusion might be that Constantine looks almost exactly as he did then. “I’m very much like my father. My father always looked 45. He looked 45 when he was 30, and he looked 45 when he was 60. When I was 20, the first part I played in my acting school in New York was the father in ‘Dear Ruth.’ I played all of the fathers that year. I guess I was just the most mature and angry-looking--which wasn’t anger, of course, but terror. It’s just these beetling eyebrows.”

Currently, the Pennsylvania native--who will be seen at Christmas in the holiday film “Prancer"--is playing a decidedly non-parental role as the “gay, boring, paranoid” director of a European scientific institute in Vaclav Havel’s “Temptation” (at the Mark Taper Forum to Aug. 27).


“He’s a strange child of nature,” he says. “But at the same time, he’s not as unusual as he may appear. Not only does he obviously exist in communist countries, but I think everywhere. Before I became an actor--or at least before I was paid for acting and had to work jobs on the side--I ran across that all the time: megalomaniac bosses and managers whom you didn’t dare joke around or speak up to because you never knew what would set them off. This one just happens to be homosexual along with the rest of it. Homosexuals are not immune from being (jerks), you know.”