James Michael Tyler Had An Ironic Job Before His Friends Fame

In addition to the main six, "Friends" featured a myriad of recurring characters that became iconic in their own right. Remember Janice, Chandler's former girlfriend known for her nasal voice that's comically cringeworthy? How about Carol, who finds herself in a number of amusing situations with her ex-husband, Ross? Then, there's Gunther, Central Perk's deadpan barista who has a massive crush on Rachel.

The beloved character was played by James Michael Tyler, who tragically died from cancer in 2021. Just a couple years before his death, the actor described Gunther in a video for Today. "I would say Gunther is a nice guy. He's a very shy guy, inexperienced in the ways of love, but a good soul, a good heart deep down for everyone except Ross," he explained.

Before finding success on "Friends," Tyler had a variety of odd jobs in Los Angeles. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor worked at Guitar Center and was a production assistant on the 1989 film "Fat Man and Little Boy." But there was another job Tyler had that actually helped him book his "Friends" role. Tyler had a lot in common with Gunther and brought more to the character than just his acting chops. He also brought his coffee-making skills to the role. So, without further ado, here's "The One Where Tyler Was a Barista."

James Michael Tyler was a barista like Gunther

Funnily enough, James Michael Tyler was a real-life barista when he booked his iconic barista role on "Friends." In a 2014 interview with BuzzFeed News, Tyler detailed his experience working behind the coffee counter. He said, "I had a job at a coffee shop called The Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood, which is still around and one of the last independent coffee shops that hasn't been taken over or whatnot. I was one of their first baristas — I think I started there in 1990 or so." Tyler shared that he continued to work at the spot for the series' first four seasons, as he was uncertain if he'd keep appearing on "Friends." As Tyler spent more time on set, he dropped his real-life barista job.

The purpose of Tyler's character Gunther was to make Central Perk look "authentic." However, the "Friends" actor revealed that he didn't make a single coffee once! He added that craft service was responsible for preparing the lead actors various coffee beverages.

Tyler also talked to Digital Spy about his espresso-making skills. He said, "You know, 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! That was a happy accident and I'm very, very grateful to have had that skill." Yet, the skill wasn't too applicable for the actor's actual life, as Tyler revealed he rarely drinks coffee.

Inside the role of Gunther

As time went on, James Michael Tyler's Gunther became more fleshed out. In a 2015 interview with Good Morning Britain, Tyler spoke about his journey on "Friends." He said, "I came in the night before they shot the first episode as an extra. About midway through the second season they said 'your name is Gunther.'" He was told he had one line — "yeah." In a Q&A with Digital Spy, the actor gave some insight into his process of developing the character. When asked if he had a backstory for Gunther prior to his verbal breakthrough, he said, "Before then, I had kind of an inkling that Gunther slept in the back of Central Perk — in the storage room. But I didn't create a full-formed backstory for him until much later in the series."

One memorable trait of Gunther's was his bleached hair, which he flaunted from the very beginning. Tyler confirmed he had it dyed a day before joining the series. "I have a friend who wanted to practice on my head because they wanted to be a stylist. So I offered what hair I had left to turn white. That was a happy coincidence!" he told Digital Spy. The upkeep was a job in itself — Tyler bleached his hair weekly for the show's decade-long run!