Tyler revisited the Central Perk in 2015 as part of a Warner Bros studio tour
BBC Tyler revisited the Central Perk in 2015 as part of a Warner Bros studio tour

US actor James Michael Tyler, who most famously starred as Gunther in the TV sitcom Friends, has died aged 59.

"Tyler passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning," a statement from his manager said.

"If you met him once you made a friend for life," it added. "[He] is survived by his wife, Jennifer Carno, the love of his life."

Tyler was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018 which later spread to his bones.

"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.

While he did not command the same amount of screen time as the six main Friends characters, Gunther was and remains a popular figure among fans.

Gunther 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.

"The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh Friend)... but Michael's loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband", his manager said.

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

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

"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."

Tyler appeared in almost 150 episodes of the comedy which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004.

Paying tribute to Tyler, Aniston wrote on her Instagram page: "Friends would not have been the same without you. Thank you for the laughter you brought to the show and to all of our lives. You will be so missed."

Aniston also shared a clip from the final episode, where Gunther finally declares his love for Rachel.

In an Instagram post, co-star Courteney Cox, who played Monica, said: "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."

Warner Bros Television, one of the co-producers of the sitcom, said Tyler was "a beloved actor and integral part of our Friends family".

Michael continued to perform in recent years while undergoing treatment for cancer.

He starred in two short films - The Gesture and the Word, and Processing - winning best actor awards at various film festivals.

In 2021, his spoken word performance of Stephen Kalinich's poem If You Knew was adapted into a short video to raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

-BBC