The Devastating Death Of Friends Star James Michael Tyler

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The Devastating Death Of Friends Star James Michael Tyler
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as Gunther in NBC’s seminal sitcom “Friends,” has died, TMZ reported on October 24, 2021. 

A representative for Tyler confirmed to TMZ that the actor “passed away peacefully Sunday morning at his home in L.A.” Tyler was 59 years old. 

According to TMZ, his family said in a statement, “The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh ‘Friend’), from the hit series ‘Friends,’ 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.”

In June 2021, Tyler appeared on “Today” and announced that he had been diagnosed with “advanced prostate cancer” that had “spread to [his] bones.” His diagnosis came nearly three years prior, and at the time he publicly spoke about his diagnosis, Tyler noted that his cancer had progressed to stage 4, what he described as “late stage.” Tragically, Tyler also expressed his feeling at the time that his cancer would “probably get” him. 

“I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen. That came back at an extraordinarily high number,” Tyler explained, noting that the diagnosis occurred after a routine annual checkup. “I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said, ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.'”

He revealed that he had undergone hormone therapy and was, at the time, receiving chemotherapy to treat his cancer. Tyler also urged everyone to be diligent with checkups and screenings.

James Michael Tyler was more than just a Friend

The Devastating Death Of Friends Star James Michael Tyler
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Though viewers around the world know James Michael Tyler’s face, distinctive voice, and pitch-perfect sense of humor from “Friends,” he did many other things in his life. 

Born in Mississippi on May 28, 1962, Tyler was the youngest of his siblings, and sadly lost both his father and his mother before he was 12 years old (via IMDb). Following his mother’s death, Tyler moved to South Carolina and began living with his older sister. He took a liking to theatre while studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology at Clemson University, began acting, and later enrolled in the University of Georgia for graduate school, receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting. 

His passion for acting took him to the bright lights of Hollywood, where Tyler worked as an assistant editor on films and a production assistant on director Roland Joffé’s 1989 film “Fat Man and Little Boy.” In 1992, Tyler appeared as a bar patron in the short film “The Roommate.”

Two years later, Tyler was thrust into the limelight when he landed the role of Gunther, the icy-haired Central Perk barista and most ardent admirer of Rachel Greene (Jennifer Aniston), on “Friends.” He played a part — in both credited and uncredited appearances — in 150 episodes of the series from 1994 to 2004. Tyler maintained a deep, enduring love for “Friends” throughout the years, establishing a pop-up Central Perk in London in 2009 (via the Daily News) and appearing at another Central Perk replica, this time located in Lower Manhattan in New York City, in 2014 (via Time).

After “Friends” came to a close, Tyler went on to star in projects like “Scrubs,” “Nobody’s Watching,” “Live with It,” “Jason’s Big Problem,” “Keeping Up with the Downs,” “Episodes,” “Modern Music,” “Processing,” and “The Gesture and the Word.” 

Our thoughts are with Tyler’s loved ones during this difficult time.

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