NEW YORK (AP) – James Michael Tyler, actor widely known for his recurring role as Gunther on “Friends,” has passed away. He was 59 years old.
Tyler died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday from prostate cancer, his manager Toni Benson said. Tyler was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018.
“The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh ‘Friend’) from the hit series ‘Friends’, but those close to Michael knew him as an actor, musician, cancer awareness advocate and husband loving, ”Benson wrote in a tribute. . “Michael loved live music, cheered on his Clemson Tigers and often found himself on fun and unforeseen adventures.”
Tyler 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 episodes of “Friends” in 1994. Over the course of the multi-year series, he became the series’ most recurring guest playing Gunther , the Central Perk barista with an unrequited affection for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).
Tyler was first chosen while working as a barista at Café Bourgeois Pig in Los Angeles. He didn’t have a line of dialogue on “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 course of the 236 episodes, Tyler appeared in 150 of them.
Warner Bros. Television, which produced the hit series, mourned the death of Tyler, “a beloved actor and an integral part of our ‘Friends’ family.”
After “Friends” ended in 2004, Tyler made appearances on “Scrubs”, “Modern Music” and he played himself in an episode of Matt LeBlanc’s “Episodes” in 2012.
After being diagnosed with cancer, Tyler starred in two shorts while undergoing treatment and gave an oral 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.
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