NEW YORK – James Michael Tyler, actor best known for his recurring role as Gunther in Friends, has died. He was 59 years old.
Tyler died Sunday at home in Los Angeles of prostate cancer, his manager Tony Benson said. Tyler was first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018.
“The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh Friend) from the hit TV series Friends, but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer fighter and loving husband,” wrote Benson. … “Michael loved live music, was a fan of his Clemson Tigers, and often got into fun and unplanned adventures.”
Tyler made brief appearances on 1990s TV series such as Just Shoot Me! and Sabrina the Teenage Witch before becoming a minor character in the second episode of Friends in 1994. Over the years of the series, he became the most recurring guest star on the series, playing Gunther, Central Perk. a barista with an unrequited affection for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
Tyler was originally selected as the barista at the Bourgeois Pig in Los Angeles. According to Saul Austerlitz’s book A Generation of Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined the Television Era, he didn’t have a single line in Friends until he appeared 33 times on the show. For 236 episodes, Tyler has appeared in 150 of them.
Warner Bros. Television, which produced the hit, mourned the death of Tyler, “a beloved actor and an integral part of our Friends family.”
After Friends ended in 2004, Tyler appeared in Scrubs, Modern Music, and played himself in Matt LeBlanc’s 2012 episode of Episodes.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Tyler starred in two short films during treatment and performed an oral recitation of Stefan Kalinich’s poem “If You Only Knew” to raise awareness of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Tyler is survived by his wife Jennifer Carnot.