James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing Gunther throughout all ten seasons of Friends, has passed away at age 59. According to TMZ, Tyler was battling Stage 4 prostate cancer and died Sunday morning at his home in Los Angeles. The actor's family issued a statement today about his passing.
"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." They added, "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."
Earlier this year, Tyler revealed his cancer diagnosis after making a brief Zoom appearance on HBO Max's Friends: The Reunion special. Tyler shared with TODAY that he decided to appear virtually over Zoom during the reunion. "I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities," Tyler explained. "It was bittersweet, honestly. 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.'"
"I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," Tyler shared. "I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. ... It's stage 4 (now). Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me." He added, "I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen ... That came back at an extraordinarily high number ... So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said 'Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.'"
The actor explained that Hormone therapy "worked amazingly for about a year," and that he was able to "function normally." Sadly, the cancer eventually spread to his bones and spine when it mutated "right at the time of the pandemic," causing paraplegia, or paralysis of the legs and lower body. "I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing," Tyler shared. "So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it's progressed."
After revealing his diagnosis, Tyler encouraged others to seek out early screenings. "There are other options available to men if they catch it before me," Tyler explained. "Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It's easily detectable ... If it spreads beyond the prostate to the bones, which is most prevalent in my form, it can be a lot more difficult to deal with."
In addition to playing Gunther in 150 episodes of Friends, Tyler also appeared in episodes of Just Shoot Me!, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs, and more. In 2012, the actor made a hilarious appearance as himself in an episode of Matt LeBlanc's series, Episodes. Tyler's last onscreen appearances as an actor were in the 2020 short films Processing and The Gesture and The World.
Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time