What James Michael Tyler Was Doing Before Playing Gunther On Friends

James Michael Tyler might not be one of the first people to cross your mind when you think of the iconic sitcom Friends, but he certainly should be. Tyler played one of the quirkiest characters on the show, Gunther. Gunther pined for Rachel for all 10 seasons of Friends, but we never learned much about him aside from the fact that he worked as a barista at the group's hangout, Central Perk. Tyler's real life story is a lot more interesting, though.

Tyler's role on Friends will seem particularly serendipitous when you hear what he was doing before he ended up on the show. "I had a job at a coffee shop called The Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood, which is still around and one of the last independent coffee shops that hasn't been taken over or whatnot," the Friends star told BuzzFeed. "I was one of their first baristas — I think I started there in 1990 or so."

He also earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting before appearing on Friends, but that's not what got him the role. "I'd worked with the assistant director, Joel Wang, and he gave me the call," Tyler explained. "He said, 'Hey, do you want to come on and be in the background in a coffee shop? I would love you to just stand by the espresso machine and pretend like you're actually really working it, just so it would look authentic."

At the time, Tyler expected the gig to only last for a few episodes, but he ended up standing by the espresso machine at Central Perk for a decade. Funnily enough, he never made a single cup of coffee on the show. "The espresso machine wasn't plugged in because they can be kind of loud, but that was a real antique coffee machine," he said. "I never actually made one coffee!"

While his MFA didn't get Tyler on the set, it did help transform Gunther into a bigger character than the nameless extra he was originally intended to be. After one-and-a-half seasons of pretending to make coffee, Tyler said that the show's co-creator, Marta Kauffman, asked if he had any acting experience. "I said, 'Yeah, I have a Master of Fine Arts in acting, actually...' And she said, 'That's really good to know.'"

The following week, Gunther had a name and his first line, and the rest is Friends history