Friends star James Michael Tyler dies at 59 after cancer battle

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James Michael Tyler, best known for playing the iconic character Gunther on Friends, has passed away at the age of 59. 

In a statement released to TMZ, his family said he lost his battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer on Sunday and died peacefully at home. 

James Michael Tyler as Gunther on Friends
Fan favourite Friends star James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on the show, has passed away at the age of 59. Photo: Getty

"The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh "Friend"), from the hit series "Friends," but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband," the statement read. 

"Michael loved live music, cheering on his Clemson Tigers, and would often find himself in fun and unplanned adventures. If you met him once you made a friend for life."

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Earlier this year, James revealed his cancer diagnosis after fans of the show wondered why he wasn't at the Friends reunion.

Gunther from Friends and Rachel
James played the iconic character Gunther on the hit show. Photo: NBC

During an appearance on NBC's Today Show, James shared, "In September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones."

Doctors discovered the cancer during a routine physical when he was 56, but it soon spread to his bones and spine.

The actor, who appeared in all 10 seasons of Friends as the manager of Central Perk, was unable to walk as the cancer left his lower body paralysed. 

"I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years... It's stage 4," he told the show. "Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."

James said doctors were initially optimistic when he was first diagnosed, but the cancer began mutating as the Covid pandemic kicked off.

James Michael Tyler on the Today Show
James said doctors discovered the cancer during a routine physical when he was 56, but it spread to his bones and spine. Photo: Today
James Michael Tyler in a wheelchair
James was left unable to walk as the cancer left his lower body paralysed. Photo: Today

"I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing," he explained. "So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic and so it's progressed."

James Zoomed into the Friends reunion but was meant to appear on stage.

"It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included," he said. "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'."

The six main cast members of the show and the show's producers were all aware of the actor's diagnosis.

James Michael Tyler and David Schwimmer on Friends
The actor appeared in all 10 seasons of Friends as the manager of Central Perk. Photo: Getty

James revealed the cancer had not been caught early and initially he was being treated with hormone therapy, which meant taking a few tablets a day.

He said that form of treatment "worked amazingly for about a year", adding, "All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal."

He also urged other men to ensure they're tested yearly so that should they have it, it can be caught early. 

"A lot of men, if they catch this early, it's easily treatable," he explained. "I don't want people to have to go through what I've been going through. This is not... an easy process."

The actor teared up while saying he'd wished he'd gotten tested earlier.

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