How Did an Actor’s Ability to Make a Cappuccino Nab Him a Long-Running Role on Friends?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: James Michael Tyler’s ability to work a cappuccino machine got him a decade-long acting gig.

When the television show Friends began in 1994, the characters on the show (which was about, naturally, a group of friends in their mid-20s) often hung out on the couch at a hip coffee shop that was downstairs from their apartments (well, most of their apartments, at least). Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel even worked there the first two seasons or so.

As you might imagine, constantly filming in a coffee shop setting required a copious amount of extras.

Here’s just two random scenes from the shop, and check out how many extras are in each picture…

So when the show began, there were lots of extras running around playing customers and the workers at the shop (which was called Central Perk, by the way).

Well, one of the issues with having extras playing workers was that they had to actually look like they knew what they were doing, and not many extras did. However, one extra, at least, had experience working in a coffee shop just like Central Perk, so James Michael Tyler was given the job of playing a worker at the shop because he actually knew how to work the cappuccino machine!

Eventually, he got some lines.

And over time, his character, Gunther, was developed as a real, bonafide recurring character.

Tyler ended up appearing in a whopping 121 out of the show’s 238 episodes! The most out of any character outside the six stars!

Not bad, for an extra!

He was practically the seventh friend!!

The legend is…


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3 Responses to “How Did an Actor’s Ability to Make a Cappuccino Nab Him a Long-Running Role on Friends?”

  1. ParanoidObsessive on March 5th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    When you posted that cast picture after the “He was practically the seventh friend!!” line, I totally expected to scroll down and see that you’d photoshopped his picture into it with the rest of them. 😛

  2. Ha! I totally considered it, but then I thought it might look too weird. My photoshop skills are not that good! If someone ELSE could do it, I’d gladly edit it in there. 🙂

  3. Ha! I was thinking the exact same thing. Really surprised to not see a photoshopped Gunther.

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