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The stars of Friends have paid tribute to one of their own. James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther, Central Perk’s barista, on all 10 seasons of the classic NBC comedy, died Sunday morning at the age of 59, after a battle with prostate cancer.
The actor last reunited with Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry when he made a virtual appearance on the Friends HBO Max reunion special that released in May. Tyler, who was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in September 2018, said he opted to go virtual due to the extent of his condition.
“It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included,” Tyler, whose cancer had mutated and spread to his spine during the pandemic, eventually leading to paraplegia, said in June, one month after his brief appearance on the reunion special. “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.'”
When Tyler did appear on Friends: The Reunion, he described his time on Friends as “the most memorable 10 years of my life,” adding, “I could not have imagined just a better experience. All these guys were fantastic and just a joy to work with. It felt very, very special.”
Following the news of Tyler’s passing, his Friends producers and co-stars paid tribute on social media, with the cast all sharing the same picture of Tyler posing on the Central Perk set.
“Friends would not have been the same without you. Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed,” wrote Aniston.
Schwimmer noted, “James, thank you for playing such a wonderful, unforgettable role in Friends and for being such a big hearted gentleman and all around mensch off screen. You will be missed, buddy.”
Cox said, “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.”
Kudrow, in a nod to Friends‘ theme song, wrote, “James Michael Tyler, we will miss you. Thank you for being there for us all.”
And Le Blanc said, “We had a lot of laughs buddy. You will be missed. RIP my friend.”
Friends co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane also paid tribute to the actor in a joint statement: “James was 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. He made Gunther’s unrequited love incredibly relatable. Our heart goes out to his wife, Jennifer Carno.”
See the tributes, below.
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