James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing Gunther in Friends, died of cancer Sunday. He was 59.
Tyler, who was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in September 2018, died peacefully in his home in Los Angeles, his manager said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
"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," his manager said.
As Gunther, Tyler played a small but memorable recurring character on Friends, appearing as a barista at Central Perk, the coffee shop where the six friends spent much of their time.
He took part in the Friends reunion special that aired in May 2021 but appeared via Zoom because of his health issues. He did not publicly share his cancer diagnosis until a month later, when he explained in an interview with NBC's Today show why he wasn't able to attend the reunion in person.
Tyler's cancer was discovered during a routine physical when his doctor gave him a prostate-specific antigen screening test. In his Today interview, he urged people to ask for the test at their next checkup, saying he would have had a better chance of survival had it been caught earlier.
"My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday — I did that," Tyler said. "My goal now is to help save at least one life."
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno, and "loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures," his manager said.
"If you met him once," he added, "you made a friend for life."
Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the show's co-creators, remembered Tyler as a "genuinely kind, sweet man."
"When he started as an extra on Friends, his unique spirit caught our eye and we knew we had to make him a character," they said in a statement. "He made Gunther's unrequited love incredibly relatable. Our heart goes out to his wife, Jennifer Carno."