Gunther on ‘Friends’ had prostate cancer

October 24, 2021
James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on "Friends," has died at 59.
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James Michael Tyler, the actor famous for playing Central Perk employee Gunther on “Friends,” has died of prostate cancer. He was 59.

Tyler died “peacefully in his home” on Sunday, according to a statement from his longtime manager Toni Benson.

“The world knew him as Gunther the seventh ‘Friend,’ but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband,” the statement said.

In June, the actor revealed he was undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

“I’m sorry to say that I’m not appearing today with you to announce that there’s a ‘Friends’ movie,” Tyler told the “Today” show. “Actually, I’m here to let you know that in September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.”

James Michael Tyler: Gunther on ‘Friends,’ reveals Stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis

The actor had hoped to attend the HBO Max “Friends” reunion in May, but said he withdrew due to health reasons.

“I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage,” Tyler explained. “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. I didn’t want to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.’ “

Tyler’s doctors first discovered his cancer during a routine physical, in which he took his first prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Though his early prognosis was “optimistic,” Tyler said the cancer mutated during the pandemic, spreading to his bones and spine, resulting in his inability to walk.

“It’s Stage 4, late stage cancer, so eventually, it’s gonna probably get me,” Tyler said. While he expressed regret for not getting tested sooner, Tyler became an advocate for early testing.

“My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. I did that, May 28th,” he said. “My goal now is to help save at least one life by coming out with this news.”



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