The Heartbreaking Death Of Friends Star James Michael Tyler

We knew him as The One Who Dishes Out the Sarcasm in the '90s hit sitcom "Friends." James Michael Tyler, who revealed he had late-stage prostate cancer in June 2021, died today. He was 59 years old.

TMZ reported with news Sunday evening, saying the actor died at home in Los Angeles, and citing a statement from the family: "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.

Per Celebrity Net Worth, James Michael Tyler was born May 28, 1962 in Winona, Mississippi. He was the youngest of six children, according to Famous Birthdays. In The Clarion-Ledger, via LaReeca Rucker, he said his childhood was a "Mayberry upbringing."

"I would get up at dawn in Mississippi," he said. "I would disappear for the entire day, and come back home when the street lights came on. I was raised at a time when things were simple and safe." When Tyler was 11, his father — a retired Air Force captain — died in a car accident. And his mother died shortly afterward of breast cancer. The young Tyler then went to live with an older sister, saying of the time, "I was very fortunate to have a lot of close family, sisters and brothers. My sister took me in and raised me like a son ... She was 10 years older."

James Michael Tyler had real-life experience as a barista

James Michael Tyler attended Anderson University, and later Clemson, earning a degree in geology, which was a childhood interest of his, via LaReeca Rucker. He developed an interest in acting and went to the University of Georgia, where he earned a master of fine arts degree. In 1988, he moved to Los Angeles, with just $200 in his pocket. His lucky break on "Friends" started out playing an extra, going to the audition because he'd heard they wanted someone with coffee experience.

Screen Rant notes that Tyler had real-life experience as a barista, and because of this, he was the only extra on the "Friends" set that knew how to work the espresso machine. As for Gunther's iconic white hair — that was the result of an accident. But the producers liked the look so much that he was asked to keep it, and he had to treat his hair regularly over the show's 10-year run. While he had no lines during the first season, Tyler's Gunther became one of the most popular regular guests on the show and appeared in 148 out of 236 "Friends" episodes.

James Michael Tyler's personal life and interests

"Friends" wasn't the only show that James Michael Tyler appeared in. He also appeared as a guest in "Episodes," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Scrubs," and "Just Shoot Me!" (via IMDb). The actor was married twice. His marriage to first wife Barbara Chadsey ended in 2003, over irreconcilable differences. He was married to Jennifer Carno at the time of his death (via Celebrity Mirror).

Tyler had an early interest in music (via LaReeca Rucker), and he later returned to his musical roots. Among the instruments he played were the clarinet, saxophone, and piano. He kept a music studio in his home in L.A. Per LaReeca Rucker's Clarion-Ledger piece, he credited his Mississippi homeplace as inspiration.

"I've always aspired to score a film or TV movie," he said. "If there's anything I'd like to achieve it's to score or produce music. That for me is like taking a walk. It interests me, grounds me and I lose track of time. Mississippi gave me that."

James Michael Tyler's illness was made public in June 2021

James Michael Tyler said he was first diagnosed when he was 56 years old. "...they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen. 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," Tyler told NBC's "Today." He had been coping well, but the cancer eventually mutated and spread, right around the time the pandemic began. 

He also revealed on "Today" that cancer had kept him from taking part in the "Friends" reunion in person. "It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn't wanna bring a downer on it, you know? ... I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'"