Friends‘ James Michael Tyler, Who Played Gunther, Reveals Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis

Photo: Danny Feld/NBCU Photo Bank.
James Michael Tyler, who played the beloved coffee shop employee Gunther on Friends, revealed that he's been battling prostate cancer and it has reached stage 4.
The actor told the Today show that he was first diagnosed in September 2018 during his annual checkup, but it was caught relatively late and has recently spread to his bones and spine.
"I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," Tyler said. "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."
At first, the actor tried hormone therapy, which worked for about a year, and allowed him to lead a "regular" life as long as he took his pills. "All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal," he said. During that time, he hadn't done much acting work, Tyler had participated in a few Friends-related events. "... I had it then, but (was) able to function normally. ... I was feeling fine, honestly. I didn't feel any symptoms. And it was very easy to regulate."
However, he said that during the pandemic the cancer metastasized enough that it led to paralysis in his lower body. He's currently on an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy, but made a point to emphasize how important it is for men to get regular prostate cancer screenings in order to avoid catching anything too late.
"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me," he continued. "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."
Tyler notably took part in HBO Max's Friends reunion in May, but could only appear virtually on Zoom because of his treatment.
"I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities," Tyler said. "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.'"
While Tyler may not be inhabiting any fictional characters any time soon, he's sharing his personal story because believes he still has a part to play. "That's my only reason for coming out like this and letting people know," he explained. "That's my new role."

More from TV

R29 Original Series