James Michael Tyler Landed Gunther Role on 'Friends' Thanks to His Real-Life Barista Experience

The actor, who played Central Perk employee Gunther on Friends, died Sunday after battling prostate cancer

James Michael Tyler had a special set of skills to thank for landing him the part of Gunther on Friends.

Tyler, who died at age 59 on Sunday, previously opened up to Digital Spy about how his ability to work an espresso machine helped him get cast in the beloved sitcom.

"I honestly always thought my Masters in fine arts would get me further in the acting world than knowing how to work an espresso machine," he said in 2018. "That was a happy accident and I'm very, very grateful to have had that skill."

When Tyler booked the role on Friends, he was working at The Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood. He remained an employee at the coffee shop for several years, even while appearing on the hit show.

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"I kept my job at The Bourgeois Pig for the next four years. So I kept my day job, in other words, because I never knew if they were going to bring me back," he told BuzzFeed News in 2014.

"But once Gunther was more established and they would have me on all week, not just one day a week, basically, I thought, okay, I don't really have time for this. The Bourgeois Pig managers and owners said, 'Honestly, you're only here like one or two shifts,' and there were other employees who were friends of mine," he continued. "I loved it for the social aspect — it was like my way to see everybody in the neighborhood — but I'm like, I really should give these shifts up. Because it just didn't seem right."

James Michael Tyler
James Michael Tyler on Friends. Warner Bros. /Everett

And even though his espresso machine knowledge got him the part, Tyler never actually had to make a beverage on set.

"The espresso machine wasn't plugged in because they can be kind of loud," he revealed. "But that was a real antique coffee machine. I never actually made one coffee!"

Tyler appeared on all 10 seasons of the NBC sitcom, which starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, David Schwimmer and Matthew Perry.

While he wasn't a primary cast member, Tyler was included in a 2019 LEGO Friends set. It featured the show's iconic Central Perk coffee shop, where Tyler's character was employed.

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James Michael Tyler
James Michael Tyler. Anthony Harvey/Getty

Tyler died following his battle with stage 4 prostate cancer. He first disclosed his diagnosis in June, approximately three years after he began treatment in 2018.

Tyler said his health struggles were what kept him from making an in-person appearance at the HBO Max Friends reunion special, which aired in May.

"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 on the Today show in June. "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?"

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