‘Friends’ actor James Michael Tyler reveals stage four prostate cancer diagnosis

"I don't want people to have to go through what I've been going through"

Friends actor James Michael Tyler has revealed that he is battling stage four prostate cancer.

The actor, who played Central Perk manager Gunther on the hit sitcom, told TODAY that the diagnosis came in 2018 during a routine check-up, though the cancer has now advanced to his bones.

“I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years… It’s stage four [now]. Late stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it’s gonna probably get me.”

“I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen,” Tyler explained. “That came back at an extraordinarily high number… So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there.

James Michael Tyler as Gunther in 'Friends'
James Michael Tyler as Gunther in ‘Friends’. CREDIT: LANDMARK MEDIA/Alamy Stock Photo

“Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said ‘Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.'”

After undergoing hormone therapy, Tyler learned that the cancer had since spread to his bones, causing paraplegia (paralysis of the lower body) and that he is now undergoing chemotherapy.

“I missed going in for a test, which was not a good thing,” Tyler recalled. “So the cancer decided to mutate at the time of the pandemic, and so it’s progressed.”

 

Tyler also revealed that his illness meant he could not attend the recent Friends reunion in person, as there were plans to join the other main cast members on stage.

“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,” he said. “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.'”

'Friends' actor James Michael Tyler
‘Friends’ actor James Michael Tyler. CREDIT: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

Tyler went on to explain that there are “other options” for men if they catch it early: “Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It’s easily detectable… If it spreads beyond the prostate to the bones, which is most prevalent in my form, it can be a lot more difficult to deal with.”

“A lot of men, if they catch this early, it’s easily treatable,” he added. “I don’t want people to have to go through what I’ve been going through. This is not … an easy process.”

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