Tyler, who played Gunther on Friends for all 10 seasons, discussed his prognosis on Today.

By Andrea Towers
June 21, 2021 at 10:16 AM EDT
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James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing Gunther - Central Perk's sarcastic coffee shop owner on NBC's hit sitcom Friends - has revealed he's fighting stage 4 prostate cancer.

The actor appeared on Today Monday to discuss his struggles with the disease since his initial diagnosis in 2018, telling NBC anchor Craig Melvin that because he didn't catch the cancer early, it spread more rapidly than usual. During the pandemic, the actor became paralyzed from the waist down due to tumors that grew on his spine.

James Michael Tyler
James Michael Tyler discusses his battle with prostate cancer on NBC's "Today."
| Credit: Today Show

"For my specific prognoses... it's stage 4. Late-stage cancer," Tyler explained. "So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."

While Tyler's illness kept him from appearing in person at the recent Friends reunion, the actor was determined to remain a part of the event.

"I wanted to be a part of that, and initially I was going to be on the stage, at least, with them, and be able to take part in all the festivities," Tyler told Today. "It was bittersweet, honestly. I was very happy to be included. It was my decision not to be a part of that physically and make an appearance on Zoom, basically, because I didn't wanna bring a downer on it, you know? I didn't want to be like, 'Oh, and by the way, Gunther has cancer.'"

James Michael Tyler; David Schwimmer
Credit: Danny Feld/NBCU Photo Bank

When asked if the cast of Friends knew the severity of his diagnosis, Tyler acknowledged that "David Schwimmer has corresponded with me over Instagram - the producers are aware, they've been aware for a long time."

The actor is currently undergoing chemotherapy and implored people to listen to their doctors and get tested, as early detection of the disease almost always results in being able to catch it.

"My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday," said an emotional Tyler. "I did that. My goal now is to help at least save one life."

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