James Michael Tyler, who portrayed the Rachel Green-obsessed Central Perk barista Gunther on Friends, died Sunday at the age of 59.
Variety reports that Tyler died at his Los Angeles home following a diagnosis of stage IV prostate cancer; the actor revealed his diagnosis in June.
“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,” Tyler’s family said in a statement to TMZ.
“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, who played Gunther for 10 seasons on the sitcom, announced his cancer battle in June after he was unable to attend the Friends reunion taping in-person earlier this year; he appeared on the special via Zoom. “It was bittersweet, honestly,” Tyler said of the reunion. “I was very happy to be included. 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, you know? I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.’”
He was first diagnosed with cancer in September 2018, and by the time of his announcement, it had already spread to his bones. “It’s stage 4. Late stage cancer,” Tyler said in June. “So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”
In addition to his role on Friends, Tyler also appeared in episodes of Scrubs, Just Shoot Me! and as himself the Matt LeBlanc-starring Episodes, where he was recruited by his former cast mate to appear in a promotional video.
“James Michael Tyler Our Gunther passed away last night,” Friends producer Kevin Bright tweeted Sunday. “He was an incredible person who spent his final days helping others. God bless you James, Gunther lives forever.”
Jennifer Aniston wrote a tribute to the actor on Instagram. “Friends would not have been the same without you,” she said. “Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed.” Lisa Kudrow added: “Thank you for being there for us all.”