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Jennifer Aniston leads tributes to James Michael Tyler: 'Friends would not have been the same without you'

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read
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The Friends cast is reacting to the death of James Michael Tyler.

Tyler, who played Central Perk coffee shop manager Gunther on the hit TV show and was dubbed "the seventh Friend" by many, died Sunday after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 59. Now, the cast members from the hit show, which aired from 1994 to 2004, are paying tribute.

Jennifer Aniston lead the tributes with a clip of the final episode in which Gunther finally declared his love for Rachel.

"Friends would not have been the same without you," she wrote. "Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed."

Courteney Cox wrote, "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. Rest In peace James."

David Schwimmer thanked Tyler "for playing such a wonderful, unforgettable role in Friends and for being such a big hearted gentleman and all around mensch off screen."

Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry also posted tributes noting how much he will be missed.

Marta Kauffman and David Crane, who created the iconic show, issued a statement, saying, "James was a genuinely kind, sweet man. When he started as an extra on Friends, his unique spirit caught our eye and we knew we had to make him a character. He made Gunther’s unrequited love incredibly relatable. Our heart goes out to his wife, Jennifer Carno."

The show's official social media handle also posted a tribute, calling Tyler "a beloved actor and integral part of our FRIENDS family."

In June, Tyler revealed he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2018 — but it spread. As a result, he suffered fractures in his bones and tumors up and down his spine, leading to paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower body.

"It's stage 4 [now], late-stage cancer, so eventually, it's gonna probably get me," he said.

He spent much of the heartbreaking interview urging individuals with prostates to get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test at their annual physical.

"I don't want people to have to go through what I've been going through," he said. "This is not ... an easy process."

Tyler died peacefully in his Los Angeles home on Sunday. 

“Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate and loving husband,” his manager said in a statement. “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.”

Tyler first appeared as a background character in the second episode of Friends — and went on to return as a guest star for the show's 10-year run. He took part in the Friends reunion on HBO Max earlier this year, but via Zoom. He said he didn't want to make it about his illness.

"I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and Gunther has cancer,'" he said. "I didn't wanna bring a downer on it, you know?" 

In addition to Friends, Tyler appeared on series including Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Scrubs