Beloved Friends Star James Michael Tyler Has Died

Friends actor James Michael Tyler has passed away following a multiyear battle with cancer. He played Gunther for 10 seasons on the sitcom

By Doug Norrie | Updated

james michael tyler gunther friends

Actor James Michael Tyler, one of the stars of Friends has passed away following a battle with cancer. He was 59 years old. TMZ reported the passing after Tyler’s representatives announced his death. The actor had announced a battle with cancer earlier in the year. 

James Michael Tyler was best known for his role as Gunther on the sitcom Friends. He appeared in 148 episodes over 10 seasons with his character running the local coffee house, Central Perk, that the group visited in every episode. While never given an episode of his own, he was known for his biting sarcasm, deadpan delivery, and crush on Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel throughout the series run. 

During Friends, there were a number of hilarious reveals about James Michael Tyler’s character with the writers making an effort to intersect some of his story with the rest of the narrative. Though at times, he was simply a background character in the production, he would swoop in from the sidelines for one-liners or let on that he might have even been a bit “above” the six key characters and their “problems”. At one point, * says he doesn’t even know their names. In addition to the crush on Rachel, Gunther also revealed he had been a soap opera star like Matt LeBlanc’s Joey. 

James Michael Tyler did appear on the Friends reunion special which aired on HBO Max over the summer. His spot was over Zoom though at the time he did not reveal that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He revealed that after the airing of the special. While this is mere speculation, that may have been in part because James Michael Tyler did not want to draw attention away from the Friends reunion. It was part of a multi-year battle that ultimately took his life. 

Though Gunther on Friends was the role James Michael Tyler was best known for, he would go on to have some smaller parts in productions when the show went off the air in 2004. He appeared on episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Scrubs, and even played himself on the Matt LeBlanc vehicle Episodes. This was related to their time on Friends with the meta-production having to do with LeBlanc’s character rebooting a BBC show for an American audience. James Michael Tyler appeared in one episode of the show.

Friends stars Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox did offer condolences and words about James Michael Tyler on Instagram, posting about what he contributed to the show and their condolences over his passing. The actresses, like the viewers, do realize that though his contribution to the sitcom was understated, it was crucial in how they developed this tiny world. Here’s what Courtney Cox had to say about their friend: 

Here’s what Jennifer Aniston had to say about the passing of James Michael Tyler:

James Michael Tyler is survived by his wife Jennifer Carno. For such a seemingly small role, he did become part of the zeitgeist for about a decade, a testament to his talent even in a bit part. He will be missed.