James Michael Tyler was the actor with the most appearances on Friends aside from the main cast. He played Gunther, the forever lovelorn manager of Central Perk, the coffeehouse that briefly employed his unrequited crush, Rachel (Jennifer Aniston). And on Sunday, it was revealed that he had passed away after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 59 years old.
Warner Bros. Television mourns the loss of James Michael Tyler, a beloved actor and integral part of our FRIENDS family. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and fans. pic.twitter.com/9coGnT5BHz
— FRIENDS (@FriendsTV) October 24, 2021
Tyler had gone public with his illness back in June, telling Today that he had stage 4 prostate cancer, and it had spread to his bones. He had been diagnosed back in 2018, during a routine physical.
“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that,” he said only a few months back. “My goal now is to at least save one life.” By that, he meant that people should get a PSA blood test as early as 40 years old.
As per The Hollywood Reporter, Tyler passed away on Sunday morning at his home in Los Angeles. He is survived by his second wife, Jennifer Carno, whom he wed in 2017.
Fittingly, Tyler was discovered while working as a barista. He was working at a coffeeshop near Hollywood when he was asked to stand in the background of one of Friends‘ first Central Perk scenes and work the levers. Then they kept him on. He didn’t get his first line of dialogue until two seasons and 38 episodes in. Tyler wound up appearing in 150 of the show’s 236 episodes, more than any other supporting player.
Gunther kept a lid on his infatuation with Rachel over the show’s run, not confessing his feelings until the series finale, “The Last One,” in 2004.
During this summer’s Friends reunion on HBO Max, Tyler only appeared via Zoom. It was his decision to skip the show. “I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it, you know?” he said.
An actor in student plays at university, he earned a degree in geology and a Master of Fine Arts. Friends was his first screen gig, and he went on to appear in such shows as Just Shoot Me!, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs, Modern Music, and Episodes, alongside his Friends colleague Matt Le Blanc.
On Friends, Gunther usually stayed in the background, but he played such an integral part of the show that when news broke of his passing, the outpouring of love on social media was effusive and passionate.
only a rare talent can steal scenes on a powerhouse ensemble show like Friends, but Tyler did it all the time. RIP Gunther … in the words of Rachel, “when I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I'll think of you.” https://t.co/sJ6ePC4i7M
— shauna (@goldengateblond) October 24, 2021
Gone, but NEVER forgotten in my heart.
We love you, James Michael Tyler. Rest easy pic.twitter.com/mtxuwZQEjO
— nibikinz (@nibikinz) October 24, 2021
James Michael Tyler Our Gunther passed away last night. He was an incredible person who spent his final days helping others. God bless you James, Gunther lives forever.
— Kevin Bright (@kbrightELA) October 24, 2021
— Fran_tastic1 (@Fran_Tastic1) October 24, 2021
Rest in Peace, James Michael Tyler aka the hilarious Gunther. We’ll miss you. pic.twitter.com/Qto0O5ZY6z
— no context chandler bing (@NoContxtBing) October 24, 2021
rip james michael tyler, sending lots of love and support to his family and friends. gunther will live forever in our hearts pic.twitter.com/ajq0SAkss5
— best of jennifer aniston (@badpostaniston) October 24, 2021
Our unforgettable Gunther! We'll love you forever! Sending love to James Michael Tyler's family and friends. pic.twitter.com/iVy4lPX7Ol
— Maria Luísa (@maluumedeiros_) October 24, 2021
James Michael Tyler, known to millions as Gunther from Friends, has died of prostate cancer aged just 59, his manager has confirmed
— lizo mzimba (@lizo_mzimba) October 24, 2021
The One where we say goodbye.
— Jon (@jon_utv) October 24, 2021
For those of us who were lucky enough to live at the Bourgeois Pig off Franklin in the 90s, Michael was not only our real-life Gunther, he was the MC of our group of friends. All heart, much loved, he will be dearly missed. https://t.co/WybaGozrPR
— donal logue (@donallogue) October 24, 2021
Some used the occasion to raise awareness of prostate cancer.
With the sad news of Michael James Tyler who played Gunther, here’s the symptoms of prostate cancer. pic.twitter.com/ppr3ru9X4W
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) October 24, 2021
RIP James Michael Tyler.