James Michael Tyler was born the youngest of five children on 28 May 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. 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 supports the Lili Claire Foundation and AIDS Project L.A charities. James is married to a personal trainer named Barbara and both are currently living in Hollywood. Tyler plays the keyboard in his studio at home and writes music. He also enjoys playing tennis, golf, and jogging.
From 1994 to 2004 James Michael Tyler played Gunther on the hit NBC sitcom Friends. Gunther was a coffee shop worker at Central Perk who had a crush on Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston. Tyler, originally a nameless extra, was cast as Gunther because he was the only extra who knew how to operate an espresso machine, having worked in several coffee shops before getting into acting. This led to a ten-year career with appearances in 121 of Friends' 238 episodes; he is the show's most-frequently-appearing guest star.
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 producers liked it so much they decided to keep it. Like Tyler himself, Gunther is a cigarette smoker.