James Michael Tyler, best known for playing witty barista Gunther in the sitcom Friends, sadly passed away aged 59, following a battle with stage four prostate cancer.
Tyler first shared his diagnosis with fans earlier this year despite being initially diagnosed in September 2018. His decision to not share this with the public until shortly after the Friends reunion led to him being unable to attend in person, instead opting to appear over zoom, with him saying he didn’t want to ruin the long awaited TV special and “put a downer” on the celebration.
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
James became a firm fan favourite during his time on Friends as the manager of Central Perk with an unrequited crush on Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Green.
However, a little-known fact about his role as Gunther, is that he only got the role because he was the only extra on set who knew how to use the cappuccino machine, as producers initially intended for this to be a one-time appearance; his chemistry with the cast made him a regular fixture.
His character was so warmly received that despite being a minor character, he appeared in 148 of 236 episodes of the sitcom.
He even kept close ties with the franchise after the show ended in 2004, with him making several appearances at Friends events throughout the years including opening a replica Central Perk in 2009 and working alongside Maggie Wheeler (Janice Hosenstein in the show) to promote various anniversary special events and festivals.
During the reunion, his relationship with the show was made plainly clear – “It was the most memorable 10 years of my life, honestly”. He went on to discuss how he “could not have imagined a better experience” being on the show and hailed the cast as both “fantastic” and “a joy to work with”
Despite the success that followed his 10-year spell on Friends, Tyler opted to stay more out of the spotlight, making very rare appearances on TV such as in co-star Matt LeBlanc’s series Episodes in 2012.
However, in recent months he worked closely with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to raise both money and awareness for the cause, using his own story to help inspire fans and followers to get involved. He most recently partnered with close friends to release a spoken word piece, of which all streaming profits were donated to the cause.
To remember the actor and his time on Friends, here’s his lookback at Gunther’s best moments to celebrate his life and amazing Acting career. Thank you James Michael Tyler for making Friends the show it is today.
By Georgia Flinton
Feature Image: NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Image