Stars who died in 2021: Gunther from 'Friends' (James Michael Tyler), age 59

2021: joy of a 'Friends' reunion, sadness about Gunther
He passed away in October
Confirmed by Kevin Bright
Warner Bros mourns the loss
Painful announcement
Diagnosed in 2018
Tyler knew he most likely wouldn't beat the cancer
An important message
Tyler kept his health issues quiet at the 'Friends' reunion
Due to his illness Tyler chose not to attend 'Friends' reunion in person
He didn't want to be a downer
'Friends' cast members knew he was ill
He remained hopeful...
Passed on October 24
James Michael Tyler - outside of 'Friends'
A very important secondary character
Immortalized as Gunther
2021: joy of a 'Friends' reunion, sadness about Gunther

Just a month after the much-anticipated reunion of 'Friends,' in May 2021, one of the series' most emblematic secondary characters announced that he had cancer. James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, the manager of 'Central Perk,' revealed that he had advanced prostate cancer.

He passed away in October

Sadly, the cancer, which had spread to his bones and spine, claimed the life of James Michael Tyler on Sunday, October 24.

Confirmed by Kevin Bright

The director and producer of 'Friends,' Kevin Bright, was tasked with breaking the harsh news to the world. The comments left by fans on the Tweet that Bright shared with the sad news are evidence of just how beloved James Michael Tyler was by 'Friends' fans.

Warner Bros mourns the loss

On the official 'Friends' Instagram account, Warner Bros paid tribute to the actor. James Michael Tyler was one of the most important secondary characters in the series, and Warner Bros gave their condolences to his family.

Painful announcement

In an interview on the 'TODAY Show' on June 21, 2021, James Michael Tyler himself had announced that he had advanced-stage cancer.

Diagnosed in 2018

James Michael Tyler, 59, said that the cancer had been discovered during a routine examination in September 2018. It was prostate cancer and had spread to the bones.

Tyler knew he most likely wouldn't beat the cancer

In an interview with Craig Melvin on 'TODAY,' Tyler said, "I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones. 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."

"I missed going in for a test..."

The pandemic complicated his treatment, and as a result, he ended up missing a vital test to keep an eye on his illness. Sadly, Tyler told 'TODAY,'
"I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing. So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it's progressed."

An important message

During the last months of his life, James Michael Tyler took the opportunity to send a message to the men of the world, encouraging them to get regular cancer screenings, which is essential for treatments to have a more efficient result.

"Please ask for a PSA test"

On the 'TODAY Show,' Tyler spoke about the importance of early detection and screening of prostate cancer.
"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me. 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."

Photo: Instagram@slate_michael

Tyler kept his health issues quiet at the 'Friends' reunion

The actor gave the interview in June to 'TODAY' from his home, by video call, as the disease has already paralyzed his legs.

(Photo: screenshot TODAY Show)

Due to his illness Tyler chose not to attend 'Friends' reunion in person

Moreover, that is why he did not go in person to the 'Friends' reunion and decided to also enter by video call.

"Initially I was going to be on stage..."

Tyler told 'TODAY,' "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."

He didn't want to be a downer

Tyler continued, explaining why he chose not to share the news of his health troubles or appear at the 'Friends' reunion in person:
"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.'"

'Friends' cast members knew he was ill

James Michael Tyler also told the 'TODAY Show' that most of his fellow cast members from 'Friends' and the producers were aware of his illness and had been very supportive of him.

He remained hopeful...

Even though the actor said in his 'TODAY' interview that he knew that cancer "was probably gonna get me," Tyler never stopped fighting. Just fourteen weeks before his passing, Tyler was feeling optimistic about how his treatment was progressing.

He shared this information at the end of a post on Instagram: "BTW, my PSA is decreasing so the chemo is helping."

 

Passed on October 24

Weeks after this optimistic message, the cancer had unfortunately taken a turn for the worst, and the actor passed away on October 24.

James Michael Tyler - outside of 'Friends'

After 'Friends' ended, James Michael Tyler participated in an episode of 'Scrubs' in 2005. Later in 2012, he appeared in 'Iron Chef America' and 'Episodes' (pictured). The following year, in 2013, he was part of 'Modern Music.'

A very important secondary character

Undoubtedly, James Michael Tyler will be greatly missed by many and most certainly by 'Friends' fans. Gunther's character was the secondary character that made the most appearances during the ten seasons that the series lasted.

 

Immortalized as Gunther

With his characteristic platinum blonde hair, Gunther appeared more than 131 times out of the 236 episodes filmed of 'Friends.' Which means he was in more than half of the episodes. Gunther kept us laughing with his love for Rachel and his hatred for Ross.

(Photo: Screenshot 'Friends', TBS)

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