James Michael Tyler, the actor best known as Gunther on the blockbuster TV series “Friends,” died Oct. 24 from prostate cancer. He was 59.
Tyler’s manager, Toni Benson, released a statement confirming the news to media outlets worldwide.
“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,” Benson wrote in the statement. “Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures.”
Earlier this year, Tyler told “Today” he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2018. During the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors discovered the cancer had spread. As a result, his health kept him from attending the May 2021 HBO “Friends” reunion special in person.
“I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage,” Tyler said in the interview. “It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn’t wanna bring a downer on it. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'”
Actor James Michael Tyler (@slate_michael) played Gunther on “Friends” for 10 years, but he was unable to attend the recent cast reunion in person because he’s been battling a serious health issue. Now he’s sharing his news for the first time with @craigmelvin. pic.twitter.com/272tg4Sbvc
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 21, 2021
Tyler did appear in the special virtually, though, to share his memories of his time on “Friends.”
The character of Gunther started as an extra, but show creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman saw something special in Tyler.
“When he started as an extra on ‘Friends,’ his unique spirit caught our eye and we knew we had to make him a character,” the pair said in a statement to CNN. “He made Gunther’s unrequited love incredibly relatable.”
Shortly after the news of Tyler’s death, tributes quickly started appearing on social media from friends, fans and co-workers.
The “Friends” Twitter account shared a photo of Tyler as Gunther and extended condolences to the actor’s loved ones.
Warner Bros. Television mourns the loss of James Michael Tyler, a beloved actor and integral part of our FRIENDS family. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and fans. pic.twitter.com/9coGnT5BHz
— FRIENDS (@FriendsTV) October 24, 2021
Members of the “Friends” cast also paid tribute to their colleague on social media.
Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel, the object of Gunther’s long-term unrequited affection, shared a video of the pair’s final scene together on the series on Instagram.
“Friends would not have been the same without you,” she wrote. “Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed.”
David Schwimmer, who played Ross on “Friends,” posted a photo of Tyler in character on the set of the show on his Instagram page.
“James, thank you for playing such a wonderful, unforgettable role in Friends and for being such a big-hearted gentleman and all-around mensch off-screen,” Schwimmer posted.”
“Friends” co-star Lisa Kudrow thanked Tyler “for being there for us all” in an Instagram post, and Courtney Cox, who portrayed Monica on “Friends,” wrote, “The size of gratitude you brought into the room and showed every day on set is the size of the gratitude I hold for having known you.”
Matt LeBlanc, who played Joey, shared his grief and a photo of him and Tyler working together in a heartfelt Instagram post.
“We had a lot of laughs buddy,” LeBlanc wrote.
Matthew Perry tweeted, “We lost a good Friend yesterday in James Michael Tyler.”
We lost a good Friend yesterday in James Michael Tyler. Gunther, you will be missed. Read in Peace.
— matthew perry (@MatthewPerry) October 25, 2021
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.