19 Iconic Central Perk Moments Dissected By The Seventh Most Important "Friend"
James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk's own Gunther, talks to BuzzFeed News about his awkward on-screen kiss, smoking on set, and filming the last scene in the legendary coffee shop.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first time viewers saw Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) barge into Central Perk in a wedding dress to find Ross (David Schwimmer), Monica (Courteney Cox), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) sitting on that iconic orange couch at their home away from home on NBC's Friends. For 10 seasons, television's favorite sixsome spent an inexplicable amount of their time at the West Village coffee shop, but there was another notable character (usually leering) behind them: James Michael Tyler's Gunther, the manager at Central Perk and Friends' best-known recurring character. Below, Tyler talks to BuzzFeed News about some of the most memorable moments that happened at Central Perk, getting to "say things the other characters would not," and bursting into tears with Aniston when he had to say good-bye.
1. The One Where Gunther Served Coffee (Every Season, Every Episode)
"The coffee machine wasn't plugged in because they can be kind of loud, but that was a real antique coffee machine. Most of the times, the cups were empty. I never actually made one coffee!"
2. "The One Where Eddie Won't Go" (Season 2, Episode 19)
"That was the first scene where we learned anything about Gunther. And that was completely unexpected. I'd gone in for rehearsal that day and there was no dialogue in that episode, and they had asked me to come to casting after. I went and they handed me this scene and I read it in front of co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. I got a call when I got home to come back to the set. I came back and we rehearsed the scene. It was a big surprise. I kind of played it just from the dialogue that Gunther is a realist and is not going to take it so much to heart. His life's not awful even though he's a barista. It's just kind of the matter-of-fact way Gunther says he used to be on a soap too, but I think it had a big impact on Joey's character."
3. "The One With the Bullies" (Season 2, Episode 21)
"That was more of a joke for the audience, because they're so associated with those six characters. It was just showing Ross and Chandler that they were not the best at confrontation and maybe they assumed that Gunther was brusque and would come in and take care of it. But Gunther doesn't care."
4. "The One Where Rachel Quits" (Season 3, Episode 10)
"I think Gunther would forgive Rachel for anything. She was obviously not a very good waitress, but he would let her get away with pretty much anything. There was an episode where she's trapped a spider under a coffee mug and Gunther tells her, 'I'd like to show you why we don't just trap spiders under coffee mugs and leave them there.' That was special. Rachel didn't stay in the coffee shop long and that broke Gunther's heart."
5. "The One Where Monica and Richard Are Just Friends" (Season 3, Episode 13)
"That's one of my favorite Gunther moments of the whole series. The guy actually did have underwear on by the way! He really doesn't mince words. That's also something the writers would use Gunther for — to say things the other characters would not."
6. "The One With the Morning After" (Season 3, Episode 16)
"When I first got that script and saw what Gunther was about to do, I honestly thought I was going to be one of the most-hated characters, if not actors, in America. As an actor, I was worried it was going to ostracize the fans. But fortunately, the writers handled it well in the follow-up episodes and their break didn't last forever."
7. "The One With the Hypnosis Tape" (Season 3, Episode 18)
"That Shakespearean line! We had to get clearance to have a cigarette on set. It was a real cigarette, so we had a fire marshal on set. We shot that like three times, so I had to take drags off different cigarettes for it to match for continuity for ash!"
8. "The One With The Dirty Girl" (Season 4, Episode 6)
"Rachel was doing a crossword puzzle on the couch at Central Perk and she says, 'I did it! I did it! And there's nobody to hug.' And Gunther comes running out of the back of the coffee shop and falls flat on his face behind the couch. Of course she doesn't notice. There was a pad there, but I had to take a dive. And the night before, I had fallen and cracked a rib on the side I had to fall on, so after about five takes of that that was a little bit painful!"
9. "The One With Chandler in a Box" (Season 4, Episode 8)
"Gunther, after all those years, couldn't tell them apart. In the Friends world, Gunther only cared about Rachel and didn't want to know that much about any of the other friends. But he was always included in the parties, so he must have had some relationship. But maybe he just went to the parties so he could be near Rachel. I think Gunther probably liked Phoebe or at least put up with her because he allowed her to sing in the coffee shop. But I think it was all just to be near Rachel."
10. "The One With All the Kissing" (Season 5, Episode 2)
"That guy's a threat; Gunther can't compare to that guy, so he has the right to kick him out of Central Perk. He had his motivations and they were always about Rachel pretty much."
11. "The One With Joey's New Girlfriend" (Season 5, Episode 4)
"We actually didn't rehearse until they shot it. I love Lisa [Kudrow]. It was just weird with her husband [Michel Stern] standing there. He was there when we shot! But that was great and I just adore Lisa and think she's a marvelous person and fantastic actor, so that was a really fun scene. I told her I'd brush my teeth right before the scene and have some gum or something."
12. "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry" (Season 6, Episode 14)
"They had a few other titles [for the porn movie] the writers came up with that they couldn't use on TV. Gunther knows a lot more than he lets on. I don't remember any off-hand, but I know the ratings people would not let them get away with it on network TV. That was a little surprising and kind of breaks Gunther's character a bit [to know something about Phoebe, not Rachel]. But maybe he was just trying to egg Joey on too. Maybe he hadn't seen anything. I never took Gunther as someone who would watch adult movies."
13. "The One With Unagi" (Season 6, Episode 17)
"[Joey] was not the best waiter. Gunther only hired him as a favor to Rachel, so he had ulterior motives there as well. It was great working with Matt. I always enjoyed my scenes with him."
14. "The One With Monica & Chandler's Wedding: Part 1" (Season 7, Episode 23)
"The fact that Ross' mom thought Gunther was hot, I couldn't figure it out. I never really thought of Gunther as a sort of sex symbol whatsoever. He was kind of the anti-sex symbol. Maybe Ross' mom needed to get out a little more."
15. "The One With The Stain" (Season 8, Episode 7)
"I do not [speak Dutch]. It's kind of established that the character is of Dutch heritage. That was my assumption that was never specifically said by the writers, but I figured since Gunther is fluent. Unless someone is from there or has heritage there, I don't think it's very prevalent for Gunther to study Dutch. There was a tutor who worked at the Dutch consulate in L.A. and he gave all the characters lessons on how to pronounce things. I speak German so it wasn't too far away. 'Ezel' means donkey. So I literally said, 'You have sex with donkeys.' That's a little racy for primetime, but it was in another language."
16. "The One Where Joey Tells Rachel" (Season 8, Episode 16)
"That was the first time Gunther found out. He just lost out once again and could never win at anything when it came to Rachel and misguided attempts at wanting to date her. Just to have Joey as the person, who Gunther probably didn't think was the sharpest tool in the shed, was probably just another slap in the face for him."
17. "The One Where Emma Cries" (Season 9, Episode 2)
"The first pass that we took on that, everybody in the coffee shop just reacted with shock. So we did the first pass and David turned to the director and said, 'Oh my gosh. Gunther needs to love this.' And I was like, I was hoping they would say that because Gunther would thoroughly enjoy seeing Ross get hurt. David and my brains clicked at the same time he suggested to have Gunther just grin and love that moment.
And it was the real pole that had been there, but they cut a section out of it and replaced it with memory foam and repainted it so when he punched, he hit the soft part."
18. "The One With Princess Consuela" (Season 10, Episode 14)
"Poor Gunther. He just missed out on everything and wanted so much to fit in, but really only to be near Rachel. He just got left out all the time."
19. "The Last One" (Season 10, Episode 18)
"It was really difficult to shoot [this scene]. I had taken for granted over 10 years of walking onto that set. It felt like a second home, although it was a fake coffee shop. Knowing they were going to be dismantling that set directly after we finished that scene, even though we were still shooting, that was kind of weird. They filmed that in two parts and they had to take it down to build another set. I think it was an airport that they put in its place, so that was the last night at Central Perk. It was tough shooting that scene because Gunther finally confesses everything. It's the last time I'm going to see all these cast members and crew members. Jennifer and I, the first few takes, both of us were bursting into tears, so it was tough getting through and took a lot longer than it probably should have. I'm glad the writers gave Gunther that last moment, at least to say what everyone should have figured out! I'm really grateful they gave Gunther that closure."