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'Friends' actor who played Gunther dies at 59 following cancer battle

ABC News logo ABC News 10/25/2021

Actor James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on "Friends," has lost his battle with prostate cancer. He died Saturday at the age of 59, "Friends" producer Kevin Bright announced on Twitter.

"James Michael Tyler Our Gunther passed away last night. He was an incredible person who spent his final days helping others. God bless you James, Gunther lives forever," Bright tweeted Sunday.

The official "Friends" Twitter account also posted a tribute, writing, "Warner Bros. Television mourns the loss of James Michael Tyler, a beloved actor and integral part of our FRIENDS family. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and fans."

© Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Tyler revealed to NBC's "Today" that his fight against the illness left his lower body paralyzed, keeping him from participating in the recent "Friends" reunion on HBO Max in person. He did, however, appear via video call.

MORE: 'Friends: The Reunion' special: Here's what went down

The actor told "Today" the cancer was stage 4, and had spread to his bones. "So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me," he said.

He also explained his cancer worsened during the pandemic last year. "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," he explained.

FILE - Actor James Michael Tyler attends the Central Perk Pop-Up Celebrating The 20th Anniversary Of "Friends" on September 16, 2014 in New York City. © Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images FILE - Actor James Michael Tyler attends the Central Perk Pop-Up Celebrating The 20th Anniversary Of "Friends" on September 16, 2014 in New York City.

In 2019, Tyler told ABC Audio he was "grateful" his character on "Friends" has left such an impression. "I got there, started with one word, and really no storyline whatsoever. You got to say, 'Yeah,'" he recalled.

"I believe the whole, like, 'Gunther's unrequited love for Rachel' was only supposed to be about one or two episodes, but they kept that story arc for 10 years, which I'm very grateful for," he added.

On Sunday night, Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel Greene in the beloved sitcom, posted a tribute to Tyler on Instagram, sharing a clip from a "Friends" scene of Rachel and Gunther as well as a photo of Tyler.

"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 #JamesMichaelTaylor 💔," Aniston wrote in the caption.

Tyler is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno.

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