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James Michael Tyler: Friends stars including Jennifer Aniston pay tribute to the actor after his death

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James Michael Tyler

The Friends actor – who starred as Gunther in the hit sitcom – passed away peacefully on Sunday morning.

Friends stars including Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow have paid tribute to James Michael Tyler after it was announced that he passed away over the weekend at the age of 59.

The actor, who starred as the much-loved Gunther in almost 150 episodes of the sitcom series, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018. Tyler’s manager confirmed that he “passed away peacefully” at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning.

Taking to Instagram to share her tribute to Tyler, Aniston – whose character Rachel was the subject of Gunther’s crush throughout the series – said that the show “would not have been the same” without Tyler’s memorable performance. 

“Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives,” she wrote underneath a video clip of the pair from the show. “You will be so missed.”

Cox also took to Instagram to share her own tribute alongside a photo of Tyler in character as Gunther. “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,” she wrote. “Rest in peace James.”

Sharing the same photo to her Instagram, Kudrow added: “James Michael Tyler, we will miss you. Thank you for being there for us all.” 

Other Friends cast members who have shared tributes to Tyler include Matt LeBlanc, who said the pair “had a lot of laughs” and that Tyler would “be missed”, and Maggie Wheeler – who played Janice – who said she was “so grateful” to have known Tyler, who she described as “kind and gentle”.

“James Michael Tyler will be dearly missed,” she continued. “My thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time.”

In the statement confirming his passing, the actor’s manager paid tribute to Tyler’s decision to share his diagnosis with the world. “The world knew him as Gunter (the seventh Friend) but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate and loving husband,” the statement read.  

“If you met him once you made a friend for life,” it continued. “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.”

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Speaking to the BBC about Tyler’s role on the show, David Crane, who co-created Friends, said the actor started as an extra on the show and was given the role as Gunther because he could work a coffee machine.

“As time went on, I think we realised he’s funny – a really good actor,” he explained. “We just kept giving him more and more, and when we realised there was a storyline about his secret love for Rachel, it was just the gift that kept on giving.”

Crane continued: “His delivery was impeccable, he was so good that we found ourselves going to him for the punchline for a whole scene or for a whole episode. With just the littlest opportunity he created this indelible character.” 

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.