R.I.P. James Michael Taylor -- A Tribute to a Beloved Friend of "Friends"

By Friends of "Friends" Archives
Cover image for  article: R.I.P. James Michael Taylor -- A Tribute to a Beloved Friend of "Friends"

Actor James Michael Tyler, fondly remembered for his role as Gunther, the Central Perk manager with "hair brighter than the sun," lost his battle with prostate cancer on Sunday. For all 10 seasons of Friends, Tyler was a permanent fixture on the series, and beyond the core cast one of a handful of actors to have a robust recurring role. Tyler, who was diagnosed with the disease in September 2018, became an advocate, vowing to raise awareness and admitting that if he managed to save one life by sharing his cancer journey, he'd be happy.

Originally hired as an extra, Gunther soon became a fan favorite and a staple memorable character. With his sarcastic comebacks, unrequited love for Rachel Green (Jennifer Anniston) and an ever-present disdain for Ross Gellar (David Schwimmer), who had realized Gunther's life-long goal of a relationship with Rachel, the character provided some of the show's funniest interactions. He also provided Rachel her first job, as a waitress at Central Perk, and Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) a gig as a waiter when he was down on his luck.

Due to the fact he couldn't travel, and his unwillingness to bring the mood of the reunion down, Tyler appeared in the long-awaited Friends: The Reunion for HBO Max this past May via Zoom, to the delight of his co-stars, the show's creators, and fans.

News of his passing hit hard amongst the cast and crew of Friends, as they took to social media to pay tribute to their fallen Friend ofFriends.

"He was a genuinely kind, sweet man," shared series creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane in a statement.

"Friends would not have been the same without you," shared Anniston via her Instagram page. "Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed."

"We had a lot of laughs buddy," posted LeBlanc to Instagram.

"You will be missed. RIP my friend," offered Courteney Cox who played Monica Gellar. "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."

"James Michael Tyler, we will miss you. Thank you for being there for us all," Lisa Kudrow posted in tribute.

"James, thank you for playing such a wonderful, unforgettable role in Friends and for being such a big-hearted gentleman and all-around mensch off-screen. You will be missed, buddy," David Schwimmer shared on his Instagram page.

That's a sentiment shared by Mathew Perry (Chandler Bing) who took to Twitter to pay his respects. "We lost a good Friend yesterday in James Michael Tyler. Gunther, you will be missed," he wrote.

Maggie Wheeler, who like Tyler also had a memorable recurring role as the "Oh-my-God"-screaming Janice Litman-Goralnik for much of the show's run, took to the official Friends social media accounts to pay her respects writing, "So grateful to have known this kind and gentle man. James Michael Tyler will be dearly missed. My thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time. In recent years James and I enjoyed working alongside one another doing PR for various Friends events and I'm very grateful for the time we spent together. I am so sad to hear of his passing."

Thanks to the indelible mark he left on the series as Gunther, James Michael Tyler will always remain one of our favorite Friends ofFriends. Tyler was 59.

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