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How Many Episodes Of Friends Did James Michael Tyler Star In?

Probably no other recurring character on NBC's "Friends" had more air time — or more importance to the plot — than Central Perk manager Gunther, played by James Michael Tyler. His crush on Rachel, outsider status from the main group, and bright blond hair were subjects of great humor during the course of the show's 10-year-run between 1994-2004. He was as much a fixture on the show as the iconic café where the main characters hung out all the time.

Fans will remember that Gunther is the one who tells Rachel about Ross' dalliance with another woman just hours after they fight — and decide to go on a break — in the third season episode "The One with the Morning After." He's on hand, in fact, for many events in the character's lives, like informal parties and Phoebe's wedding — and also including less significant times in Rachel's life, as when she proposes to Joshua (Tate Donovan) after four dates and gets turned down (Gunther can't help interjecting, "You idiot!"). In fact, he confesses his love to her at last in the series finale, when she's on her way to a new job in Paris. Her response is, "I love you too, probably not in the same way, but I do. And when I'm in a café having coffee, or when I see a man with hair brighter than the sun, I'll think of you."

Given how vital Gunther ended up being in terms of giving depth to the world of "Friends," you might be wondering exactly how many episodes Tyler starred in. It was quite a few, actually, although his role wasn't very big in many of them.

Tyler starred in 150 episodes of Friends over 10 seasons

While many of his appearances were not-particularly memorable cameos, James Michael Tyler ended up starring in 150 episodes of the show, according to IMDb. Starting with the second episode, "The One with the Sonogram at the End," Gunther was a barista at Central Perk — but he had no speaking lines for quite some time. Tyler told Daily Mail Australia that he was cast as an extra, known on the call sheet as "coffee guy." In fact, he didn't have a name or a line until the second season episode "The One with Phoebe's Dad," in which he replies "Yeah" when Ross asks if he has stairs in his place, and Ross gives him a Slinky originally intended as Rachel's Christmas gift. 

Obviously, Gunther's role expanded as the show went on, eventually becoming an integral character. "I did not have the name Gunther until the 33rd episode which was midway through the second season," he said. "The writers gave me one word to say, 'Yeah', and it just kind of built up from there. It was never intended to be a character." 

James Michael Tyler was a barista in real life

However, while James Michael Tyler was cast as a mere extra, he did have barista experience in real life — and, in fact, he was working at a coffeehouse when being cast. He has said (via TVweb) that he got the role because he knew how to work an espresso machine — and knew an assistant director on the show. So it wasn't a big stretch for him to play someone who could make a decent latte ... though in real life, it turns out that he's not much of a coffee drinker. Then, he says, they turned what could have been a two-episode arc about his love for Rachel into a long-term acting gig, even giving him a failed-actor backstory that allowed him to relate to Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc).

"To have been a minor character on a major show, and as an actor to have had 10 years of steady work is unheard of, especially on a show of that caliber. It was a great learning experience for me," Tyler said (via TV and City).

If you're a fan, don't worry: Tyler will appear on the special streaming event "Friends: The Reunion" when it debuts on HBO Max on May 27.