Where would Central Perk’s six layabout customers be without Gunther keeping them infused with caffeine while maintaining a whole latte love for Rachel? James Michael Tyler, 38, has been behind the counter since Episode 1, so it’s time for this bleach-er creature to have his say.
CAN YOU MAKE COFFEE, OR DO YOU JUST PLAY A COFFEE MAKER ON TV? I was actually working at a coffee shop here in Hollywood called Bourgeois Pig [when I was called to be an extra]. I said, ”Okay, $40 a day, one day a week, I’ll sit there behind the counter and have fun, have some crafts service.” I had no expectations that it would develop into anything.
WHEN DID YOU MOVE FROM EXTRA TO CHARACTER? In the middle of the second season, [cocreator] Marta Kauffman said, ”Guess what, you have a name now. It’s Gunther.” So I was like, ”Well…cool.” Later that day she asked me if I had any acting experience, and I said, ”Actually, I have a master of fine arts in acting.” The next week I was given [my first major line], where Gunther reveals that he used to be Bryce on All My Children.
BEING ON A HIT SHOW, DID YOU INSTANTLY RENOUNCE YOUR FOOD-SERVICE PAST? I kept my job at the Bourgeois Pig for the first four seasons. I got a lot of double, triple, and quadruple takes, and then people would walk up and say, ”Aren’t you Gunther on Friends?” And I’d say, ”Well, right now I’m James Michael at the coffee shop, but I do play the guy.” I do get called Gunther a lot more than my real name, but I’ve been called worse.
IF THIS IS THE SHOW’S FINAL SEASON, DON’T YOU THINK IT SHOULD END WITH GUNTHER FINALLY GETTING RACHEL? It would have to be the last scene, with Gunther waking up immediately. It’s all been a big fantasy of his.