James Michael Tyler, most famous for playing Gunther, the manager of Central Perk in the hit sitcom Friends, has died aged 59.
In an interview with NBC in June 2021, Tyler announced that he had stage 4 prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in 2018.
“The world knew him as Gunther … but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband,’ his family said in a statement.
“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.”
In May, he had appeared on Friends: The Reunion but was unable to attend in person due to his health issues. Appearing instead via Zoom, Tyler said: “It was the most memorable 10 years of my life, honestly.
“I could not have imagined just a better experience. All these guys were fantastic and just a joy to work with. It felt very, very special.”
Tyler said he didn’t reveal his illness before then because: “I didn’t want it to be like ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer’.”
Tyler also appeared in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs and an episode of the BBC’s Episodes opposite his Friends co-star Matt LeBlanc. But he was best known for his Friends role, and appeared regularly at fan events since the show ended.
Gunther was a firm fan favourite on Friends because of his deadpan delivery of both lines and coffee – and his unrequited love for Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Greene.
He finally admitted his feelings in the finale, when he found out Rachel was due to move to Paris. She replies: “I love you too … probably not in the same way. But when I’m in a cafe having coffee and I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I’ll think of you.”
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.