James Michael Tyler was born the youngest of five children on May 28, 1962 in Winona, Mississippi, USA to a retired Air Force captain and a homemaker. When he was eleven years old, his parents died and James moved to Anderson, South Carolina to live with his sister. He studied at Clemson University and graduated with a degree in Geology, but got his Masters of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Georgia. During this time, he was a member of a student theatre group, the Clemson Players. This experience sparked his interest in becoming an actor.
In 1988 he moved to Los Angeles and became a production assistant for "Fat Man and Little Boy" and an assistant apprentice film editor. He supported the Lili Claire Foundation and AIDS Project L.A charities.
James Michael Tyler as "Gunther"
Tyler appeared in 93 of the 236 episodes of Friends. This made him the actor who has appeared most often in the series, except for the six main cast members.
Tyler was an extra who was cast as Gunther because he was the only extra who knew how to operate an espresso machine. (Tyler used to work in several coffee shops before acting.) This casting behind the coffee bar led to the semi-recurring speaking part of Gunther.
Tyler's signature peroxide blonde hair was actually accidental. The day before the Friends audition, one of Tyler's acquaintances, who studied to become a hairdresser, experimented on his hair. When Tyler showed up for the audition, the producer liked it so much they decided to keep it, and he had to dye his hair on a regular basis.
Like his character Gunther on Friends, Tyler was a cigarette smoker.
- The Disturbance at Dinner as Wilson Pomade (1998)
- Foreign Correspondents as Randy (1999)
- Motel Blue as Oscar Bevins (1999)
- Shaving Ryan's Privates as Tom Spanks (2003)
- Live With It as Andrew (2008)
- Just Shoot Me! as a Doctor (2000)
- Sabrina, the Teenage Witch as Ethan (2001)
- Scrubs as Therapist (2005)
- He appeared in the unaired pilot satire sitcom Nobody's Watching, playing himself as a present from the studio executives on the set of Central Perk
- He starred in the music video for Chicane's dance track 'Come Tomorrow', playing the part of a postman, miming the lyrics throughout the video
- He appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America - Morimoto/Flay VS. Sakai/Batali
- He appeared on the UK BBC series and in the US Showtime series "Episodes" (S02E06) in the final scene. The storyline of the episode being that LeBlanc (as himself) is called to get a former cast member from Friends.
In 2021 Tyler revealed he had stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer. He made a promotional video for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, urging men to get tested. He died a few months later on October 24.