Gunther from Friends: actor James Michael Tyler dies at 59 - how did he die as Jennifer Aniston leads tributes

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Jennifer Aniston marked the death of her Friends co-star by saying the show ‘would not have been the same’ without him

Friends actor James Michael Tyler has died aged 59 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, a representative has said.

The star was beloved by millions of fans for his portrayal of Gunther, the quirky coffee shop manager with bleached hair and an unrequited love for Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel.

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Tyler died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday, his representatives said.

In a statement announcing his death, they said: “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.

“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.”

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who was James Michael Tyler?

Tyler was born the youngest of five children in May 1962 in Mississippi, and named after his uncle.

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When he was 10 years old his father - a former United States Air Force captain - died, and when he was 11 years old, his mother died.

Tyler studied geology at Clemson University in South Carolina, during which time he was a member of a student theatre group, the Clemson Players, sparking his interest in becoming an actor.

As well as playing Gunther, Tyler’s other TV roles included teen sitcom Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and medical comedy Scrubs.

Who was Gunther in Friends?

(Photo: Warner Bros. Television)(Photo: Warner Bros. Television)
(Photo: Warner Bros. Television) | Warner Bros. Television

From 1994 to 2004, Tyler played Gunther, and was dubbed by many fans as the “seventh Friend” due to his ubiquity on the series; he appeared in 148 of Friends' 236 episodes, and is the show's most-frequently-appearing recurring character actor.

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While he was frequently seen milling about behind the counter at Central Perk, Gunther was also given plenty of his own memorable lines over the 10-year run of Friends.

After showing his love for Rachel for a decade, Gunther made a long-shot bid to woo the fashionista in the final episode of Friends, when she was preparing to depart for a new life in Paris.

Rachel rejected Gunther’s advances but let him down gently, telling him: “And, and when I’m in a cafe, having coffee, or I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I’ll think of you.”

Who has paid tribute?

Jennifer Aniston has marked the death of her Friends co-star by saying the show “would not have been the same” without him.

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Aniston shared an Instagram post which included a photo of Tyler from the set and a clip of the pair in the final episode as Gunther declares his love for Rachel before being let down gently.

“Friends would not have been the same without you,” she wrote in the post’s caption. “Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed.”

Co-star Courteney Cox posted the same photo of Tyler in a pink-striped collared shirt and tie to express her “gratitude” to her former co-star.

Cox 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. Rest in peace, James.”

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Matt LeBlanc shared the same photo of Tyler as his co-stars, while the actor led with a still of the pair either side of Central Perk’s counter.

“We had a lot of laughs buddy,” LeBlanc wrote in the Instagram post’s caption. “You will be missed. RIP my friend.”

Actress Lisa Kudrow, who played Phoebe, wrote on Instagram: “James Michael Tyler, we will miss you. Thank you for being there for us all. #jamesmichealtyler”.

The official Friends Twitter account said: “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.”

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How did he die?

In June, Tyler revealed he had prostate cancer, telling a US TV show he was diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease in 2018 which had spread to his bones.

In 2021, Tyler’s spoken word performance of Stephen Kalinich’s poem ‘If You Knew’ was adapted into a short video to raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.

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