The world is mourning the loss of James Michael Tyler, an actor best known for playing Gunther on Friends. Tyler died of prostate cancer at the age of 59 at his Los Angeles home on October 24. In a statement released by his representatives, Tyler’s family told of his love of the Clemson Tigers, music, and going on adventures. Above all, his family says that he most enjoyed spending time with his loved ones and making new friends.
Tyler was born on May 28, 1962 in Winona, Mississippi. As an undergraduate at Clemson University, Tyler showed an interest in acting and later earned a Master’s degree in fine arts at the University of Georgia. Tyler then traveled to Los Angeles, where he worked as a production assistant and editor for a variety of projects, including Fat Man and Little Boy.
In 1994, Tyler was cast in Friends as Gunther, the manager of the Central Perk coffee shop. Initially only an extra, Tyler’s charisma caught the attention of the show’s producers, who made him a recurring character. Gunther would go on to appear in 148 episodes of the series and fans of the show usually refer to the character as the “seventh Friend.” In the series, Tyler became known for his deadpan delivery and the character’s unrequited love for Rachel, who was played by Jennifer Aniston. Looking back at Tyler’s work on Friends, the show’s creators, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, said that he made Gunther and the character’s crush on Rachel incredibly relatable for audiences. In addition to Friends, Tyler acted in a number of film and television productions, including Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs, and Episodes.
Although Tyler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, he did not publicly reveal his diagnosis until earlier this June. In an appearance on The Today Show, Tyler told the world of his struggle with the illness. While praising his family for all the support they have given him in his fight with the disease, Tyler made the appearance in the hopes of encouraging men to get cancer screenings on a regular basis.
Since news of his passing became public, several of Tyler’s Friends castmates have posted tributes to the late actor on social media. Jennifer Aniston tweeted that Tyler would be missed and thanked the actor for all the humor he brought to the show. Ross Geller actor David Schwimmer posted his tribute to Instagram, celebrating Tyler for his big heart both in front of and behind the camera.