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James Michael Tyler (1962–2021), played Gunther on “Friends”

by Linnea Crowther

James Michael Tyler was an actor best known for playing Gunther, the barista at Central Perk, on “Friends.”

Acting career

Tyler’s best-known role was Gunther, the coffee shop worker who had a longstanding unrequited crush on Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel Green character. He was a regular recurring character on the show, appearing in more than half of its episodes as the show’s most frequent guest star. Tyler also made appearances on TV shows including “Just Shoot Me,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and “Scrubs.”

Tyler on Gunther’s look

“I went in with the white hair kind of by mistake. A friend of mine had bleached it, literally the night before I went in as an extra. He was practicing on my head because he wanted to be a stylist. So I went in with this bleached hair and they put me behind the coffee counter and I guess the producers liked it. They were like, ‘this is what a New York barista looks like in 1994.’” —from a 2019 interview for TV and City


Tributes to James Michael Tyler

Full obituary: People

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