American actor James Michael Tyler, who most famously starred as Gunther in the TV sitcom Friends, has died aged 59, BBC reports.
“Tyler passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning,” his manager stated.
Tyler was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018 which later spread to his bones.
“Wanting to help as many people as possible, he bravely shared his story and became a campaigner for those with a prostate to get a… blood test as early as 40-years-old,” his manager said.
While he did not command the same amount of screen time as the six main Friends characters, Gunther was and remains a popular figure among fans.
Originally, James started off as an extra at the Friends set, but secured himself a role as the only extra who knew how to use a coffee machine.
The role of Gunther, a waiter and manager in the show’s coffee house, Central Perk was created.
“The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh Friend)… but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband”, his manager said.
Tyler appeared in almost 150 episodes of the comedy which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004.
Warner Bros Television, one of the co-producers of the sitcom, said Tyler was “a beloved actor and integral part of our Friends family”.
Michael continued to perform in recent years while undergoing treatment for cancer.
He starred in two short films – The Gesture and the Word, and Processing – winning best actor awards at various film festivals.
In 2021, his spoken word performance of Stephen Kalinich’s poem If You Knew was adapted into a short video to raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Image source: LA times