James Michael Tyler, who played Gunther on Friends for the sitcom's full 10-year run, revealed Monday he has prostate cancer. The 59-year-old tells Today that the cancer was already stage 4 when it was caught during an annual checkup in 2018. While hormone therapy initially allowed him to lead a symptom-free, relatively normal life, the cancer has now progressed and is in his bones and spine. "So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me," the actor says. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy. "I wish I'd gone in earlier," Tyler says in a video message for the Prostate Cancer Foundation urging men to get screened.
The cancer's progression paralyzed his lower body, which is why he did not appear in person at the HBO Max Friends reunion last month. "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,'" says Tyler, who did make an appearance on Zoom. He says his goal now is to raise awareness about the importance of routine screenings, because the cancer can be very treatable if caught early. Screening recommendations vary, but depending on the specific circumstances, men as young as 40 are encouraged to start screenings if they are at higher risk, or 45 if not. "You do not want to go through what I've had to go through," Tyler says. (Read more prostate cancer stories.)