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James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on 'Friends,' dies at 59

Actor James Michael Tyler, pictured at the Central Perk pop-up celebrating the 20th anniversary of <em>Friends</em> in September 2014 in New York City, has died at age 59.
Actor James Michael Tyler, pictured at the Central Perk pop-up celebrating the 20th anniversary of <em>Friends</em> in September 2014 in New York City, has died at age 59.

James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing the recurring character Gunther on Friends, has died at age 59 of prostate cancer.

He died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning, his manager Toni Benson confirmed to NPR.

"The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh "Friend")," Benson said in a statement, "but Michael's loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband. 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."

Tyler was first cast on the hit show as a background actor but went on to become the recurring character with the most appearances: Gunther, a shy and eccentric barista who took a lot of punches from the main characters and had an unrequited love for Rachel (Jennifer Aniston).

The character had "a good soul, a good heart deep down, for everyone except Ross [David Schwimmer]," Tyler said in 2019.

Tyler was an actual barista at a Los Angeles coffee shop at the time he was cast in 1994. He didn't have a line of dialogue for his first 33 appearances on the show, according to The Associated Press. By the end of the series, he'd appeared in 150 of the show's 236 episodes.

Tyler also acted on Scrubs, Just Shoot Me!, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and on five episodes of the show Modern Music, among other shows.

He was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018, Benson said, but continued to perform while undergoing treatment. He starred in two short films: The Gesture and the Word and Processing, both released in 2020.

Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.

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