James Michael Tyler, Best Known As Friends' Gunther, Is Dead At 59

gunther talking to charlie on friends
(Image credit: HBO Max)

As one of the most recognized Friends stars who wasn't part of the main six cast members, James Michael Tyler has been a beloved part of millions of people's TV memories across his career. Sadly, there will now be mournful feelings coupled with the sitcom laughter, as the actor has passed away at the age of 59.

James Michael Tyler died on the morning of Sunday, October 24, according to Variety. His death, which was reported to have been a peaceful one, came after years of fighting prostate cancer, which Tyler was diagnosed with back in September 2018. The public at large learned of his cancer battle surrounding HBO Max's Friends: The Reunion special, in which he appeared for a remotely filmed segment. 

His manager, who confirmed the actor's death, said this in a statement: 

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.

The Friends social media pages also shared kind words for James Michael Tyler.

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Following the airing of Friends' reunion special, James Michael Tyler took part in a very candid interview with Today in which he spoke about the challenges of his life after his cancer diagnosis. But even though the subject matter was as grim as could be, Tyler spoke about it with a sense of humor that reflected why he became as iconic a part of Friends' history as the coffee shop he kept afloat. 

James Michael Tyler was born on May 28, 1962, in Greenwood, Mississippi, and he mostly lived in the South until his 1988 move to Los Angeles in his mid-20s. After years of working largely behind the scenes, Tyler landed the role of Gunther in 1994, and appeared in dozens of episodes during Friends' ten seasons. Despite never really getting any meaty storylines beyond an everlasting adoration for Jennifer Aniston's Rachel (and equally strong disdain for whoever she happened to be dating at the time), Gunther was so loved in part because he kept his distance from the central characters' chaotic lives. And Tyler gave just enough away with his performances that one wishes the show had delved into his life just a bit more.

Not that Friends was the only hit TV comedy that James Michael Tyler was a part of. During and after his run as Gunther, the actor popped up in episodes of Just Shoot Me!, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as a memorable therapist on Scrubs. He reunited with Matt LeBlanc during the second season of Episodes as well. His final two on-screen roles were for two 2020 short films, Processing and The Gesture and the Word

We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of James Michael Tyler during these painful times. For those who haven't seen/heard it yet, be sure to check out the short film of Tyler's spoken-word performance of the poem "If You Knew" by Stephen Kalinich, which was put together in support of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.