James Michael Taylor, who portrayed Gunther, in the iconic 90s TV Show, passed away at the age of 59
By Sarah Bagdon
If you’ve watched Friends, then you might remember Gunther, the Central Perk coffee shop manager. You may also have seen him in shows like Scrubs and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, as well as other shows and movies that he’s been in throughout his career. But most TV viewers knew Tyler as the barista who made snarky comments and was Rachel’s secret admirer. James Michael Taylor, who brought this character to life, passed away peacefully in his home this past Sunday. He was fifty-nine. His representative, Toni Benson, says that he passed away after battling prostate cancer since 2018. According to Benson, Tyler had first revealed that he had stage four prostate cancer in June when he was on NBC’s, The Today Show. He mentioned that doctors had found the cancer during a normal physical exam when he was fifty-six. Reportedly, it had spread to his bones, making him unable to walk, so he was treated with hormone therapy to help.
“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,” Benson’s statement reads. The co-creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman and David Crane, told CNN that “Tyler was a ‘genuinely kind, sweet man.’”
Tyler was only supposed to be an extra on the show, but obviously, the creators thought he had more potential. They both said that Tyler had a unique spirit that caught their eye and they knew that they had to make him a character. Little did they know that he’d go on to become one of the most iconic side characters of the show. They also went on to state that “‘He made Gunther's unrequited love incredibly relatable…’” Tyler was able to bring to life a relatable character in a show full of relatable characters; he brought to life the ‘unrequited love for the pretty girl’ cliché.
Tyler’s death did not only shock the whole Friends community, but to the cast as well. All six “friends” made their tributes to their co-star. Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel Green, said, “Friends would not have been the same without you.” David Schwimmer, who portrayed Ross Geller, said that Tyler’s character was “such a wonderful, unforgettable role…” And Courtney Cox, who played Schwimmer’s on-screen sister, Monica, said, “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.” Matt LeBlanc, who was Joey Tribbiani, said that they shared lots of laughs and Lisa Kudrow, who’s known for her role as Phoebe Buffay, said, referencing the show’s theme song, “Thank you for being there for us all.” All of the main cast members’ posts discuss how kind Tyler was and how much he will be missed. The official Twitter account for Friends even wrote, “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.” He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno, who his manager has described as “the love of his life.”
Appearing in almost 150 of the 236 episodes, Tyler’s character left an imprint on viewers, and his influence continues to this day. I know that as someone who has watched the show in its entirety at least twice, Gunther was one of my favorite side characters. Aniston was right when she said that the show would not be the same without him. I’m sure that myself, as well as many other Friends fans around the world would not be able to imagine the show without the sarcastic coffee shop manager. It’s just like Benson said, he really was the seventh “friend.”
Ryan Ford '23,