Bess Meisler: A Comprehensive Look at Her Acting Career

Bess Meisler, a talented actress born in the USA in 1922, was best known for her portrayal of the eccentric character Yiayia in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise. Having worked in various films …

bess meisler
Real Name:Bess Meisler
Birthday:July 19, 1922
Net Worth:N/A
Occupation:American Actress

Bess Meisler, a talented actress born in the USA in 1922, was best known for her portrayal of the eccentric character Yiayia in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise. Having worked in various films and television shows, Meisler’s distinct style of acting brought life to her roles, making her a memorable figure in Hollywood. Tragically, the actress passed away in 2021, leaving a lasting impact on audiences and the industry alike.

Her career highlights include popular films such as Daddy Day Care and the widely successful rom-com My Big Fat Greek Wedding, written by Nia Vardalos and directed by Joel Zwick. The movie, released in 2002, went on to earn several award nominations due to its entertaining and heartwarming representation of family dynamics and cultural differences.

Despite her absence in the third installment of the My Big Fat Greek Wedding series, Meisler’s comedic essence is honored through family photos and a flashback scene. Her vibrant spirit continues to provide laughter and enjoyment to the viewers as they remember her beloved portrayal of Yiayia, the worrisome and loving grandmother.

Early Life and Career Beginnings

Bess Meisler was born on July 19, 1922, in the United States. Despite starting her acting career later in life, she has managed to make a mark in the entertainment industry with her talent and determination.

Meisler’s passion for acting led her to initially focus on theater roles. She made her Broadway debut in the 1981 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, where she played multiple roles such as Shandel, was part of the ensemble cast, and understudied for the characters Golde and Yente.

In 1987, at the age of 65, she transitioned from the stage to the screen with her first television appearance on the show Hunter, where she portrayed the character Mrs. Patelli. It was evident that Meisler brought a distinct energy and talent to the screen, which proved that age is just a number when it comes to pursuing one’s dreams.

Meisler continued to work on television and also ventured into film roles over the years. However, her big break came in 2002 with the highly successful romantic comedy movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This role catapulted her into the limelight, and she continued to demonstrate her versatility as an actress in various television shows and films, including Daddy Day Care (2003) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016).

Throughout her career, Bess Meisler has been a shining example of perseverance, proving that it’s never too late to embrace one’s aspirations and make an impact in the world of entertainment.

Rise to Fame

Bess Meisler, an American actress, gained prominence for her role in the highly acclaimed movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She embarked on a successful acting journey that has spanned multiple decades.

In 2002, Meisler played the character of Yiayia in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a romantic comedy written by Nia Vardalos, who also starred as the main protagonist, Toula. The film’s storyline revolves around Toula, a Greek-American woman, and her efforts to gain her family’s approval of her non-Greek fiancé. Yiayia, Meisler’s character, provided comic relief as Toula’s grandmother and mother of Kostas (played by Michael Constantine).

The supporting cast of the film featured talented actors like Lainie Kazan, who portrayed Toula’s mother, Maria, and Andrea Martin, who played the role of Aunt Voula. Together, these talented actors brought to life a story that resonated with audiences around the world, ultimately achieving commercial and critical success.

The movie’s immense popularity led to a short-lived TV series, My Big Fat Greek Life, and a sequel in 2016 titled My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Meisler reprised her role as Yiayia, showcasing her acting prowess and contributing to the film’s success once again.

Throughout her career, Bess Meisler has demonstrated remarkable dedication to her craft. Her portrayal of Yiayia in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding franchise has left an indelible mark on both the film industry and the hearts of audiences everywhere.

Iconic Roles in Film and Television

Portrayal of Yiayia

Bess Meisler is best known for her performance as Yiayia, the lovable yet meddlesome grandmother, in the hit films My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and its sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016). The character of Yiayia resonated with audiences, as she provided both comic relief and emotional depth to the story about a Greek-American woman’s quest for her family’s approval of her non-Greek fiancé.

Other Notable Performances

Apart from her iconic role as Yiayia, Bess Meisler has also made her mark in other film and television projects:

  • Daddy Day Care (2003): Bess appeared in this family comedy film, playing the role of an Old Gypsy Woman.
  • Room 6 (2006): In this horror thriller, she took on the role of Ellen, adding another dimension to her acting repertoire.
  • The Perfect Family (2011): Bess portrayed the character of Mrs. Punch in this drama film, showcasing her skills in a more serious tone.

In conclusion, Bess Meisler has had an interesting career in the film and television industry, with her portrayal of Yiayia in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel setting the benchmark for her acting talents. Her versatile performances in other projects have also left a lasting impression on audiences, demonstrating her ability to adapt and excel in various roles and genres.

Contributions to Sequels and Spin-offs

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

Bess Meisler reprised her role as Yaya, the beloved grandmother, in the 2016 sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. The film maintains its focus on the Portokalos family, charming the audience with cultural exaggerations, close-knit family dynamics, and humor. In this sequel, Yaya continues to entertain viewers with her eccentric personality and provides support to the other characters through the various challenges they face.

Other returning cast members in this sequel include John Corbett as Ian Miller, Louis Mandylor as Nick Portokalos, Gia Carides as Nikki, and Joey Fatone as Angelo. The actors successfully recreated the chemistry that made the first film successful, and with Bess Meisler’s contribution, the sequel provides audiences with a heartwarming and funny experience.

My Big Fat Greek Life

In addition to her work in the film series, Bess Meisler also joined the cast of the short-lived TV series My Big Fat Greek Life, which aired in 2003. The series was based on the same concept as the original film, revolving around the Portokalos family and their various adventures in their daily lives. Although the show was unsuccessful and was canceled after only one season, Meisler’s portrayal of Yaya was consistent with her performance in the films, once again providing a comforting presence to the series.

While My Big Fat Greek Life did not achieve the same level of success as the film series, Bess Meisler’s contributions to the sequels and spin-offs serve as a testament to her talent and dedication to her role. In each of these projects, she has effectively brought the character of Yaya to life, providing the warmth and humor that complements the endearing core of the Portokalos family saga.

Collaborations and Co-Stars

Work with Nia Vardalos

Bess Meisler is known for her memorable role as Yiayia in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and its sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016). Both films were written by and starred Nia Vardalos. The on-screen chemistry between Meisler and Vardalos contributed to the success and charm of these two films. In both movies, Yiayia is a quintessential part of the Portokalos family, adding depth to her character and engaging audiences.

Meisler’s character in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding series is a testament to her acting talent and her ability to work well with the cast, including Nia Vardalos. Their collaboration brought a sense of authenticity and warmth to the films, making them beloved by viewers across the globe.

Shared Screen with Stars

Throughout her film career, Bess Meisler had the opportunity to share the screen with a diverse range of talented actors. Some of the most notable co-stars she worked alongside include:

  • John Corbett: Well-known for his role as Aidan in Sex and the City, Corbett plays the love interest of Nia Vardalos’ character, Toula, in both My Big Fat Greek Wedding films. Meisler and Corbett’s characters are part of the same family, giving them plenty of scenes together.
  • Michael Constantine: As the patriarch of the Portokalos family, Constantine’s character, Gus, is often seen interacting with Meisler’s Yiayia. Their dynamic added a layer of comedy and emotion to the films, showcasing their skill as actors.
  • Nia Vardalos: As mentioned earlier, Vardalos wrote and starred in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding series, playing the role of Toula. In scenes with Bess Meisler, their on-screen relationship as grandmother and granddaughter was believable and heartwarming.
Co-Star Shared Films Roles
Nia Vardalos My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) Toula
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
John Corbett My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) Ian
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
Michael Constantine My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) Gus
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)

Bess Meisler’s collaborations with her co-stars, particularly Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, and Michael Constantine, helped shape the memorable characters and storylines in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding films. Her performances alongside these talented actors speak to her dedication to the craft and her ability to bring a unique presence to the screen.

Appearances in Television Series

Bess Meisler has made a considerable impact on television throughout her career. With her unique acting style and memorable roles, she has left her mark on various popular television series. In this section, we will briefly discuss her appearances in some of these shows.

One of Meisler’s notable performances was seen in Cougar Town, where she managed to create a memorable character. Her ability to deliver humor and emotion in this comedy series showcased her talent in this genre. Similarly, her recurring role in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend added depth to the series as she contributed to the show’s quirkiness and charm.

Meisler also made guest appearances on family-oriented shows, such as Fuller House, where she had a chance to interact with various cast members and display her range as an actress. In addition, her comedic timing was showcased in her role in the popular sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. Meisler’s portrayal of unique and interesting characters further solidified her as a versatile actress.

Her acting abilities extend beyond sitcoms, as can be seen from her participation in drama series such as The Comeback. In this show, Meisler demonstrated her capability to take on more serious roles without losing her sense of humor. She has also had the opportunity to be part of iconic television shows like Sesame Street, which is known for its educational content and memorable characters.

Her talent for drama allowed her to be part of the cast of Big Little Lies, a critically acclaimed series that deals with complex relationships and societal issues. Furthermore, her involvement in the revival of David Lynch’s cult classic series, Twin Peaks, highlights her contribution to the world of television in various styles and genres.

In summary, Bess Meisler’s diverse career and appearances in television series spanning across genres attest to her talent and adaptability. Through roles in sitcoms, family shows, and drama series, she has managed to create memorable characters while consistently maintaining a confident, knowledgeable, and clear presence on screen.

Participation in Revivals and Broadway

Bess Meisler has made a significant mark on the Broadway scene, primarily through her participation in revivals of classic shows. These revivals not only honor the original productions, but also bring new life to the stage, adapting to the modern context while preserving essential elements.

As an accomplished actress, Meisler’s work in revivals has contributed to the preservation of Broadway’s rich legacy. In addition to her work in revivals, she also made a splash with her comical performance in the hit movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Though the movie is unrelated to Broadway theater, it showcases Meisler’s talent as a versatile performer.

On Broadway, revivals play an essential role in upholding the history and art of theater. Assembling a talented cast of stars like Meisler helps bring these productions to life in New York, offering audiences the chance to experience classic stories anew. Over the years, several productions have enjoyed extended runs or even outlasted their original counterparts, thanks to the power of revivals.

Throughout her career, Meisler’s participation in revivals and Broadway has showcased her:

  • Dedication to preserving the past while adapting it for modern times.
  • Commitment to the technique and artistry required of a stage performer.
  • Ability to captivate audiences with her presence and enhance productions.

By continuing to participate in revivals, Bess Meisler and her fellow Broadway stars play their part in both honoring and reinvigorating the theater industry in New York and beyond. Through their talent and dedication, they ensure that these important works continue to be shared with the public for years to come.

Involvement Behind the Scenes

Edit and Contribute

Bess Meisler, known for her role as Yiayia in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” has also been involved in various aspects of the behind-the-scenes work in the film industry. Part of her contribution includes editing and contributing to projects. By participating in refining the content, she helps in enhancing the overall quality of the final product.

With platforms like IMDbPro, professionals like Bess Meisler can efficiently keep track of her work and also make necessary modifications. This allows her to stay updated with the latest information, such as missing content or inaccuracies in her filmography. Additionally, IMDbPro is a valuable resource for connecting with other industry professionals, including producers and filmmakers.

Furthermore, as an active contributor in the film industry, Bess Meisler often collaborates with producers and fellow team members to bring the best out of every project she works on. By actively engaging in discussions and providing feedback, she plays a vital role in enhancing the quality and reach of the projects she is involved in.

In summary, Bess Meisler’s involvement behind the scenes showcases her dedication and commitment to the film industry. While she is celebrated for her on-screen presence, her contributions as an editor and active team member continue to be invaluable in enriching the cinematic experience.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

Bess Meisler is best known for her role as Yiayia in the highly successful romantic comedy, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (MBFGW), which premiered in 2002. The film introduced audiences to the eccentric, yet endearing Portokalos family. As a testament to the movie’s popularity, it later inspired a short-lived TV series, My Big Fat Greek Life, and a sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

The Portokalos Family and MBFGW’s Success: Meisler’s character, Yiayia, was an essential part of the film’s ensemble, which included other notable characters like Gus (Toula’s father), Toula (the protagonist), and Aunt Voula. The movie’s story centered around the challenges faced by Toula, a Greek-American woman seeking her family’s approval for marrying her non-Greek fiancé. The film’s portrayal of an ethnic family and their traditions struck a chord with audiences, making it relatable to many people from diverse backgrounds.

Influence on Romantic Comedy: Bess Meisler’s performance in MBFGW helped shape the romantic comedy genre. The film’s unique blend of humor, love, and culture made it stand out among other romantic comedies of its time. MBFGW demonstrated that exploring and celebrating cultural differences could become a key ingredient in creating successful and engaging rom-coms.

  1. Notable Films & Roles:
    • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002): Yiayia
    • Daddy Day Care (2003): Old Gypsy Woman
    • Room 6 (2006): Ellen
    • The Memory Thief (2007): Joanna Kaufman
    • The Perfect Family (2011): Greta

Bess Meisler’s cultural impact reaches beyond her role in MBFGW. She has contributed to the world of comedy, playing various roles that highlight her impeccable comedic timing and range. As a result, many aspiring comedians find inspiration in her performances and style. Bess Meisler’s enduring legacy is a reminder that laughter holds a special place in our lives, bringing people together and transcending cultural barriers.

Filmography Highlights


Bess Meisler is a talented actress known for her memorable roles in several films. In 2002, she appeared as Yiayia in the widely popular romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which gained a 6.6 rating. Bess reprised her role as Mana-Yiayia in the film’s sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, released in 2016, which received a 6.0 rating.

In 2003, Bess portrayed the Old Gypsy Woman in the family comedy Daddy Day Care, which starred Eddie Murphy and was a box office success with a 5.6 rating. Another notable film in her career includes The Perfect Family, released in 2011.

TV Shows

While Bess Meisler is mostly known for her film work, she has appeared in a number of television shows as well. Some of the notable TV shows in her repertoire are Hunter, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Chateau Laurier.

Throughout her career, Bess has had opportunities to work with seasoned actors like Bruce Gray, who portrayed Rodney in My Big Fat Greek Wedding as well as its sequel. Bess Meisler’s contributions to film and television have made her a recognizable figure in the industry.

Guest Appearances and Special Roles

Bess Meisler, a talented actress with a diverse career, has managed to leave an impression with her guest appearances and special roles in various movies and TV shows. She gained notable recognition for her role in the hit movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and its sequel, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.”

One of her most memorable performances in television was in the series Eagleheart, where she played the character Evelyn. Her portrayal garnered praise and showcased her ability to adapt to various roles.

It is important to note that, while not involved in Dancing with the Stars, Bess Meisler does have a connection with Fiona Reid. Both actors have displayed their talent on stage in theatrical productions, such as Fiona Reid’s prominent role in “One Week,” which demonstrates the diversity within their acting careers.

In addition to her film and television roles, Bess Meisler has also participated in other projects. For instance, she made an appearance on the popular TV show Ellen, as well as taking on the character of Mrs. Petelli in the episodic series Unger’s Maid.

Her ability to perform in various types of roles, ranging from drama to comedy, highlights Bess Meisler’s versatile talent. This can be seen through her portrayal of Harriet in the sitcom One Week, showcasing her aptitude for comedic timing and character development.

In summary, Bess Meisler’s guest appearances and special roles exhibit her wide range of acting skills, making her a valued and respected performer within the entertainment industry.

Recognition and Awards

Bess Meisler, a talented actress, is known for her performances in films and television series. She gained fame for her role as Yiayia in the popular movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), and reprised her role as Mana-Yiayia in its sequel, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016). Both films were distributed by IFC Films in the United States, while the Canadian distribution was handled by different entities.

Though Meisler didn’t receive any personal awards or nominations for her performances in these films, the movies garnered several accolades. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in particular, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture.

Some of Meisler’s other notable performances include her roles in Daddy Day Care (2003) and Room 6 (2006). These films did not receive the same level of recognition as the Greek Wedding series, but they did help to establish Meisler as a well-respected character actress.

In addition to her film career, Bess Meisler has also worked in theater, with one of her most significant stage credits being the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof in 1981. Here is a list outlining Bess Meisler’s key performances:

  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002): Yiayia
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016): Mana-Yiayia
  • Daddy Day Care (2003): Old Gypsy Woman
  • Room 6 (2006): Ellen

In conclusion, Bess Meisler’s acting career may not be laden with numerous awards, but her performances in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel earned her appreciation from both audiences and critics alike. Her contribution to the success of these movies, and her experience in various film and stage roles, solidifies her position as a respected actress in the entertainment industry.

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