NEW YORK – James Michael Tyler, the actor who is widely known for his recurring role as Gunther on “Friends”, has died. He was 59.
Tyler died Sunday at home in Los Angeles of prostate cancer, said his manager, Toni Benson. Tyler was first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018.
“The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh ‘friend’) from the hit series ‘Friends,’ but Michael’s beloved knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-conscious lawyer, and dear man,” Benson wrote in a tribute. . “Michael loved live music, enjoyed his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures.”
Tyler briefly appeared in the 1990s series as “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 course of the show’s seafaring career, he became the frequent guest star in the series with Gunther, the Central Perk Barista with a unanswered hearts connected for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
Tyler was initially cast while working as a barista at the Bourgeois Pig coffee roastery in Los Angeles. He did not have a dialogue line about “Friends” until he made 33 appearances on the show, according to the 2019 book, “Generation Friends: An Inside Look at the Show That Defined a Television Era”, by Saul Austerlitz. Over the 236 episodes, Tyler appears in 150 of them.
Warner Bros. Television, which produced the hit series, has the death of Tyler, “a beloved actor and an integral part of our ‘friends’ family.
Once “Friends” ended in 2004, Tyler made appearances on “Scrubs”, “Modern Music” and he played himself on an episode of Matt LeBlanc’s “Episodes” in 2012.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Tyler starred in two short films during treatment and a speech performance of Stephan Kalinich’s poem “If You Knew” to help raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.