Friends stars pay tribute to late co-star James Michael Tyler

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Friends fans have been left devastated to learn of the passing of James Michael Tyler, who starred as Gunther on the show.

According to TMZ, the 59-year-old passed away peacefully at home on Sunday following a battle with Stage 4 prostate cancer.

Friends star James Michael Tyler
Friends stars Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox and Lisa Kudrow paid tribute to James Michael Tyler, who passed away on Sunday from prostate cancer. Photo: Getty

Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow have since shared tributes for their co-star.

Jennifer shared a scene from the show's finale where Gunther finally confesses his love for her character Rachel – a long-running gag on the show. In the video, Rachel tells him she loves him too, but not in the same way.

"Friends would not have been the same without you," she wrote. "Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed."

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Courteney also shared a post that read, "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."

Lisa shared the same photo, writing, "James Michael Tyler, we will miss you. Thank you for being there for us all." 

The statement released by James' family read: "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."

Jennifer Aniston and James Michael Tyler
Jennifer Aniston shared a scene from the show's finale with her tribute, saying "the show wouldn't have been the same" without James. Photo: NBC

"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."

James shared his cancer diagnosis earlier this year after fans questioned why he wasn't at the Friends reunion in person.

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 Michael Tyler in a wheelchair after chemo
James shared his cancer diagnosis earlier this year after fans questioned why he wasn't at the Friends reunion in person. Photo: Instagram/James Michael Tyler

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

"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 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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