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‘Friends’ actor James Michael Tyler reveals he ‘nearly died’ of prostate cancer

A man sitting on a red couch
Actor James Michael Tyler attends a Central Perk pop-up event in 2014 in New York City.
(Paul Zimmerman / Getty Images)

James Michael Tyler, best known for his deadpan portrayal of coffee shop manager Gunther on “Friends,” announced Monday that he has Stage 4 prostate cancer — a disease he “nearly died” from earlier this year.

The actor, who often stole scenes set in the sitcom’s Central Perk café, detailed his cancer journey and urged others to be proactive about getting screened for the disease in a tearful interview with “Today” anchor Craig Melvin.

“I’m sorry to say that I’m not appearing with you today to announce that there’s going to be a ‘Friends’ movie,” Tyler said.

“I’m here to let you know that in September of 2018, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones.”

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A long-awaited reunion, after more than a year of racial reckoning, offered ‘Friends’ a chance to own up to its past failings. It didn’t take it.

Tyler’s condition worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic as the result of a mutation, according to “Today.” After suffering bone fractures and tumors along his spine, the actor can no longer walk.

Last month, Tyler felt healthy enough to make a brief cameo via video during the “Friends” reunion on HBO Max. Also involved in the nostalgic special were the six main cast members, as well as the show’s original producers, all of whom are aware of his illness, Tyler said.

Since learning of Tyler’s diagnosis, David Schwimmer, who portrayed Ross on the hit series, has offered his costar support via Instagram.

“I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer,’ you know what I mean?” Tyler said of his participation in the reunion.

A man posing in an orange shirt and tie
James Michael Tyler as Gunther in “Friends.”
(NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

In an effort to help others, Tyler has been working with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to educate people about the disease and encourage people to get tested. Because his cancer was identified late, Tyler said, “it’s going to probably get me.”

In a different world, Tyler said, “I would have gone in earlier, and it would have been hopefully caught earlier.”

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“Next time you go in for a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test,” he added. “Caught early, [prostate cancer] is 99% treatable.”

Here are some highlights, behind-the-scenes details and reactions that may surprise you about HBO Max’s ‘Friends: The Reunion.’

In a separate video message for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Tyler revealed that he “nearly died” in October and ended up in intensive care because of complications related to his illness. In May, the “Friends” alum celebrated a major milestone: his 59th birthday.

“You do not want to go through what I’ve had to go through the past two and a half years,” Tyler said. “I accept this. I know this is what’s happened to me. I’m not sitting here crying all the time.... If you want to stick around, get tested.”


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