James Michael Tyler, a veteran actor best known for playing perhaps the most popular recurring character on Friends, has passed away after a brave battle with prostate cancer.
He was 59 years old.
Tyler, who portrayed Central Perk barista Gunther on the hit sitcom, revealed his diagnosis for the first time in mid-June, approximately three years after his treatment got underway in 2018.
“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,” Tyler said on Today this summer, adding at the time that he was undergoing chemotherapy
The star notably starred opposite Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer, and Matthew Perry on the NBC smash hit for ten years … across 150 episodes.
Gunther was even included as the seventh Friend in the 2019 Lego set featuring the legendary coffee shop.
Back in June, the Friends alum said he received a screening for a “prostate-specific antigen” during a routine checkup in September 2018.
“That came back at an extraordinarily high number,” he explained. “
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.’”
By the end of his journey, Tyler was bound to a wheelchair.
The tragic news of his diagnosis came after the actor appeared virtually on the HBO Max Friends reunion special, which premiered in May.
The fan favorite said he still wanted to be part of the event, even if he was unable to sit on stage across from the famous names listed above.
“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. It was bittersweet, honestly,” he said on Today.
“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.'”
In addition to Friends, appeared on such shows as Sabrina the Teenage Witch in 2001 and Scrubs in 2005.
In 2013, he took on the main lead in the series Modern Music.
Up until his passing, the actor advocated for greater awareness and education regarding prostate cancer, emphasizing during his Today interviiew that the illness is “easily treatable” — if it’s caught early.
Tyler said he hoped to “help save at least one life by coming out with this news” and encouraged people to get a PSA screening… which is a prostate-specific antigen test… to detect the disease early on.
“I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through,” Tyler said at the time. “This is not … an easy process.”
According to his obituary, Tyler is survived by the love of his life, wife Jennifer Carno, “ever united in good times, in sickness, and for eternity.”
May James Michael Tyler rest in peace.