LOS ANGELES — James Michael Tyler, an actor beloved for his portrayal of Gunther on “Friends,” died of prostate cancer on Sunday morning, his manager Toni Benson confirmed to Variety. He was 59.
Tyler died peacefully in his Los Angeles home. The actor was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in September 2018. Tyler shared his story earlier this year, becoming a campaigner for individuals with prostates to get a first blood test as early as 40 years old.
“Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate and loving husband,” reads a statement from Benson. “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 most well-known for his performance as Gunther, a worker at the Central Perk cafe who reserves an unrequited love for Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel, on NBC’s sitcom “Friends.” Dubbed by fans as “the seventh ‘Friend,’” the actor was a series mainstay, first appearing in the second episode of “Friends” and returning as a guest star across the remainder of its 10-year run. He is the most frequently appearing recurring guest star across the series.
Beyond “Friends,” Tyler’s acting credits stretch back to 1992, including series like “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Scrubs” and “Modern Music.” While undergoing treatment, he continued to perform, starring in two short films, “The Gesture and the Word” and “Processing,” and earning best actor awards at various domestic and international film festivals.
This year, Tyler’s spoken word performance of Stephan Kalinich’s poem “If You Knew” was adapted into a short video to help raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno. DC/JB
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