Actor James Michael Tyler who played the role of coffee shop manager Gunther, on the hit sitcom series, “Friends” died on 24 October, 2021. As per the US media report, his age was 59.
Tyler died at his home in Los Angeles after battling prostate cancer. According to his representative, he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018.
“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,” representative Toni Benson said in a statement to US media.
His “Friends” character appeared in some 150 episodes across all 10 seasons of the beloved 1990s sitcom. He sarcastically managed Central Perk – the cafe where other characters hung out. Moreover, his pining after Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston, made the audience laugh out loud.
“Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures. If you met him once, you made a friend for life,” Benson said.
Life of James Apart From ‘Friends’
James had appeared briefly in 1990s series like Just Shoot Me! and Sabrina the Teenage Witch before being cast as a background character in the second episode of Friends in 1994. Over the show’s multi-year run, he became the most frequently recurring guest star on the series, playing Gunther the Central Perk barista with an unrequited affection for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
James was initially casted while working as a barista at the Bourgeois Pig coffee shop in Los Angeles. He didn’t have a single dialogue on the show until he had made 33 appearances, according to the 2019 book, “Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era,” by Saul Austerlitz.
Once Friends concluded in 2004, Tyler made appearances on Scrubs, Modern Music and more. He played himself on an episode of Matt LeBlanc’s Episodes in 2012.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Tyler starred in two short films while undergoing treatment. In addition, he gave a spoken word performance of the Stephan Kalinich poem “If You Knew”. He also helped in raising awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Friends Stars Show ‘Gratitude’ for the Actor
Jennifer Aniston who played the role of Rachel in Friends shared an Instagram post with a “would not have been the same” caption. “Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed,” she added. The Instagram post included a photo of Tyler from the set and a clip of the pair in the final episode as Gunther declared his love for the departing Rachel, who turned him down gently.
Co-star Cox, who played Monica, added her own tribute. “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,” she wrote.
Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe on the show, offered: “James Michael Tyler, we will miss you.” Also, referencing a line from the show’s tune, she added: “Thank you for being there for us all.”
LeBlanc, meanwhile, shared a photo of his character Joey chatting to Gunther in Central Perk. “We had a lot of laughs buddy,” LeBlanc posted. “You will be missed. RIP my friend.”
David Schwimmer, aka Ross, thanked Tyler for playing such a wonderful, unforgettable role and for being such a big-hearted gentleman and all-around mensch off-screen. “You will be missed, buddy,” he went on.