James Michael Tyler, who rose to fame as the coffee shop manager, Gunther, in NBC's hit American series "FRIENDS," has passed away at his Los Angeles home on Sunday after battling with prostate cancer for years. James was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018.
Toni Benson, the representative of James Michael Tyler, said in a statement, "The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh "Friend"), from the hit series Friends, but Michael's loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband. Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures. If you meet him once, you have made a friend for life. Wanting to help as many people as possible, he bravely shared his story and became a campaigner for those with a prostate to get a... blood test as early as 40-years-old."
Co-creators of FRIENDS, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, told CNN in a statement that Tyler was a "genuinely kind, sweet man." The co-creators statement further added, "When he started as an extra on 'Friends,' his unique spirit caught our eye, and we knew we had to make him a character. He made Gunther's unrequited love incredibly relatable. Our heart goes out to his wife, Jennifer Carno."
The actor revealed to the world that he was battling Stage 4 prostate cancer in June when he spoke to NBC’s Today Show and revealed that doctors discovered his cancer during a routine physical checkup in 2018 when he was 56-years-old. The actor further added that cancer had spread to his bones, leaving him unable to walk, and he was undergoing hormone therapy treatment.
James revealed," I went for a prostate specific antigen. That came back at an extraordinarily high number. So I knew immediately when I went online, and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work, that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate'".
Tyler continued, "I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing. As a result, cancer decided to evolve throughout the epidemic, and it has progressed. Please request a PSA test the next time you visit your doctor for a routine exam or a yearly checkup. It's easily discernible. It can be far more difficult to treat if it goes beyond the prostate to the bones, as it does in my case."
"FRIENDS" Twitter account tweeted, "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." Jennifer Aniston took to Instagram to mourn Tyler's demise. "Friends would not have been the same without you. Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. "You will be so missed, # JamesMichaelTyler", "she wrote.
Gunther had a massive crush on Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel throughout the series. His appearance on the show was one of the most appreciated side characters of the show. In May during the FRIENDS’ reunion episode, Tyler made a brief appearance and mentioned, "I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t want to put a downer on it, you know?... I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer. It was the most memorable 10 years of my life, honestly. I could not have imagined a better experience. All these guys were fantastic and just a joy to work with. It felt very, very special."
James Tyler appeared in almost 150 episodes of the show, which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004. In an Instagram post, co-star Courteney Cox, who played Monica, said: "The size of gratitude you brought into the room and showed every day on set is the size of the gratitude I hold for having known you." His spoken word performance of Stephen Kalinich's poem If You Knew was turned into a short video for the Prostate Cancer Foundation in 2021. He won the best actor honors at several film festivals for his roles in two short films, The Gesture, and the Word and Processing.
It was later revealed that Gunther’s character was created because Tyler was the only extra on set who knew how to work the espresso machine prop. His character went from being an unnamed barista guy with a background to being the beloved snarky coffee shop manager.
We extend our condolences to James Michael Tyler's family and friends!