"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star Nia Vardalos had to say goodbye to her father from afar after the spread of the coronavirus prevented her from attending his funeral in person.
The actress, who last saw her father at Christmas, told Variety that she tried to get to Canada to see her dad before he passed but was unable due to the pandemic. Her family, she said, let her speak to her dad in his hospital bed one final time via FaceTime.
"They held up the phone to him and I got to thank him for an incredible life and tell him he was a gentleman and he was a great dad," she said. "My mom held his hand and said, 'It's okay for you to go.'"
Nia said she knew that her father's health was failing when she spent time with him last December.
"It was like watching your favorite wind-up toy slowly slowly losing its batteries over the last year," Nia told Variety. "At Christmas we were all there. He was on the couch, happy and mobile. He wasn't incapacitated but not quite running a marathon…I had a feeling this might be it."
As she left her dad, she said, "There was a moment that flashed between my dad and me when we said goodbye…I think he was saying, 'This really is goodbye.'"
After Constantine, also known as Gus, passed on March 12, Nia used technology to virtually attend the funeral via a livestream.
"I always said my dad has impeccable timing," Nia said, adding that she truly believes her dad waited until social distancing was commonplace to pass.
"If he had gone 14 days ago when they weren't acknowledging the global threat, we all would have gathered and it could have brought down the city and also we would have gone back to all our communities and could have spread something," Nia said. "He waited until the church said they couldn't have any more large gatherings. I think my father knew he was keeping people safe."
After Gus passed, Nia paid tribute to him on Instagram, posting a family photo.
"Surrounded by the family he created, last night our dad gently passed away," she wrote. "Born in a Greek village, he immigrated to Canada, and, with our mom, built a happy life. Except that he was very much pro-education for all his children, my dad was indeed the basis for the character of Gus I wrote in the Greek wedding movies. He was so proud of us all and we know he is in heaven teaching everyone the Greek root of all words. Constantine Vardalos, 1932 – 2020. Rest peacefully."