James Michael Tyler, who played barista Gunther on Friends, died Sunday morning. He was 59. Tyler was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, and the disease had advanced too far for him to participate in the Friends reunion on HBO Max. Earlier this year, Tyler had disclosed his diagnosis and (per Variety) become a champion of early detection of the disease via blood test. “Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test,” he said on The Today Show. “It’s easily detectable.”
Over Friends’ ten seasons, Tyler’s character, Gunther, arguably became the most important non-Friend on the show. Tyler was the most frequently recurring guest star on the series. He told Digital Spy that he got the job because he was the only background extra on set who could run an espresso machine. Over the years, more of Gunther’s backstory amassed in one-off jokes and throwaway lines. He spoke Dutch, his roommate was named Jasmine, and before working at Central Perk he’d played Bryce on All My Children. His crush on Rachel bubbled through the show, until gaining closure in the series finale. Besides Friends, Tyler also had roles on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Just Shoot Me, and Scrubs. He reunited with Matt LeBlanc in 2012, playing himself in an episode of Episodes.