US actor James Michael Tyler, who most famously starred as Gunther Friends in the mega TV sitcom, has died aged 59 from prostate cancer.
Tyler passed away peacefully at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning, a statement from his manager said. Gunther worked as a waiter and manager in the show’s coffee house, Central Perk.
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.
Though Mr Tyler was not the main character, he was widely considered to be “the seventh friend” and appeared in 150 episodes, according to IMDB.com. He played the part of Gunther, a barista at Central Perk, the friends’ hangout, who had a deep crush on Ms Aniston’s character, Rachel, who also worked at the coffee shop.
The One Where Gunther Zooms In – Gunther Friends appearance at the reunion
When the Friends cast got back together for their much-heralded reunion in early 2021, several members of the supporting cast joined them to celebrate.
It’s a testament to Tyler’s (Gunther Freinds) importance to the show that he was the only star who was allowed to appear via Zoom, rather than in person.
Much like the original run, James Michael Tyler didn’t get much screen time during the Friends cast reunion. (Was anyone else unnerved by the sight of Gunther smiling?) But he did use what precious screen time he had to say just how thankful he was for his role as Rachel’s not-so-secret admirer.
Gunther obsessing over Rachel
There are a million great scenes we could include in this section because Gunther’s primary personality trait was his utter adoration of Jennifer Aniston’s character.
Sometimes his love for her slipped out in his speech. At other times, we heard his inner monologue as a voiceover. Either way, the poor barista could never seem to catch a break.
- “What does Rachel see in this guy?” he thinks to himself in one episode as she sits politely listening to one of Ross’s dinosaur stories. “I love Rachel, I wish she was my wife,” he adds.
- In another episode, we hear him mentally plucking up the courage to ask: “Say, Rachel, I was wondering if you’d like to go to a movie with me sometime… as my lover.” Before he decides against it, telling himself: “Nah, too out there.”
- In another episode, he yells “You idiot!” at Joshua for declining Rachel’s marriage proposal.
- When Rachel is looking for someone to hug in her excitement at completing a crossword, Gunther dives towards her in a great piece of physical comedy, ultimately crashing to the floor.
Jokes aside, Gunther played a key role in breaking up Ross and Rachel in the Friends TV series, when he told her Ross had been unfaithful.
Telling Ross he’s an “ezel”
When Ross attempted to learn Dutch to impress the landlord of an apartment, he practised some new phrases on Gunther Friends who was fluent.
But when Ross rudely cut the conversation short, Gunther ended up calling him an “ezel”. Ross had to look this up to discover he’d just been called a donkey, or ass. Once he finally found the translation, he said: “Hey Gunther, you’re an ezel.”
Gunther was too smart for him though, replying: “Jij hebt seks met ezels (You have sex with donkeys),” leaving Ross stumped once again.
Saying goodbye to Rachel
As Friends inched towards its end, Gunther finally plucked up the courage to confess his feelings for Rachel before she was due to leave for Paris.
Gunther friends told her: “I know you’re leaving tonight, but I just have to tell you. I love you. I… I don’t know if that changes your plans at all? But I thought you should know.”
Becoming emotional, Rachel replied: “Gunther. Oh, I love you too. Probably not in the same way, but I do. And when I’m in a café, having coffee, or I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I’ll think of you.”