James Michael Tyler, best known for his deadpan portrayal of coffee shop manager Gunther on Friends, has announced he has stage four prostate cancer – a disease he “nearly died” from earlier in 2021.
The 59-year-old actor, who often stole scenes set in the popular sitcom’s Central Perk cafe, 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 in the US.
“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.”
Tyler’s condition worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic as the result of a mutation, according to Today.
After suffering bone fractures and tumours along his spine, the actor can no longer walk.
In May, Tyler felt healthy enough to make a brief cameo via video during the much-anticipated Friends reunion alongside the six main cast members.
Since learning of Tyler’s diagnosis, David Schwimmer, who played Ross on the hit series, has offered his co-star 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.
Tyler has also worked 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, the actor said, “I would have gone in earlier, and it would have been hopefully caught earlier”.
“Next time you go in for a basic exam, or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test,” he said.
“Caught early, [prostate cancer[ is 99 [per cent] treatable.”
In a separate video message for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Tyler revealed he “nearly died” in October and ended up in intensive care because of complications related to his illness.
“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.”