celebrity

"The world knew him as the seventh 'Friend.'" James Michael Tyler has died of prostate cancer, aged 59.

James Michael Tyler, known to millions as Gunther from Friends, has died of prostate cancer, aged 59.

His manager confirmed he passed away peacefully in his Los Angeles home on Sunday morning.

Tyler was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018 which later spread to his bones. He shared the news for the first time earlier in 2021.

"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.

In a statement to TMZ, his family said: "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."

"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."

In June, Tyler told Today that the illness had not been caught early and had advanced to other parts of his body.

"I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," Tyler explained. "I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. ... It's stage 4 (now). Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."

The cancer was detected during an annual checkup.

"I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen," he said.

"That came back at an extraordinarily high number... so I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said 'Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.'"

Then, around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the cancer spread to his bones and spine, leading to paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower body. 

He used his platform to encourage men to get checked regularly.

"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me," Tyler said.

"Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It's easily detectable. ... If it spreads beyond the prostate to the bones, which is most prevalent in my form, it can be a lot more difficult to deal with."

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While Tyler played a supporting role on Friends, Gunther became a fan-favourite throughout the series.

Image: NBC.

He worked as a waiter and manager in the show's coffee house, Central Perk.

He had a crush on Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel throughout the series, who also worked there as a waitress in the show's early seasons.

In May, Tyler made a brief appearance on the Friends reunion special.

"It was the most memorable 10 years of my life, honestly," the actor said at the time.

"I could not have imagined just a better experience," he said. "All these guys were fantastic and just a joy to work with. It felt very, very special."

Feature image: NBC/Getty.

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