‘Friends’ Stars Who’ve Died In Real Life: James Michael Tyler, Ron Leibman, & More

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Image Credit: Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock / Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/Shutterstock

Friends remains one of the biggest TV shows of the 90s and early aughts. The show was one of the most popular for a decade, with all of the stars (like Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, and more) going on to become major stars. Friends continues to be discovered by new generations through re-runs and syndication. The main cast even reunited for an HBO special in May 2021.

As it’s been nearly 20 years since Friends came to an end, some of the actors who were featured on the show have passed away. Actors who had memorable characters such as Ron Leibman as Rachel’s father, or A-listers who made guest appearances such as Robin Williams have died in the years since the show ended. Look back on some of the stars who have died here.

Ron Leibman

Ron Leibman played Rachel’s dad. (Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock )

Ron Leibman only appeared in four episodes of Friends, but he’s undeniably memorable to fans who have seen every single episode. He was Rachel’s overbearing father Dr. Leonard Green. He made his debut in season 2’s “The One With Two Parties” and made his final appearance in season 10’s “The One Where Joey Speaks French.”

Aside from his role on Friends, Ron was a celebrated actor appearing in a variety of roles through his lengthy career. He won a Primetime Emmy for his performance in the series Kaz in 1979, and he earned a Tony for playing Roy Cohn in Angels In America in 1993. Some of his other major roles included Dr. Lior Pepler in The Sopranos and Dr. Cohen in Garden State. Ron died following difficulties with pneumonia in 2019. He was 82.

James Michael Tyler

James was often referred to as the ‘7th Friend.’ (Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/Shutterstock)

James Michael Tyler is one of the most recognizable characters from Friends as the lovelorn barista Gunther. While not one of the main six, he appeared in 148 episodes of the series. After the show ended, he kept the spirit alive, appearing at Central Perk pop-ups and even making a cameo alongside Matthew Perry on Episodes. While he appeared in a few other shows and movies, Friends remains his best-known role.

James was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018. He first revealed his diagnosis in June 2021. He said he wanted to help others with his remaining time in a Today interview. “My goal this past year was to see my 59th birthday. My goal now is to help save at least one life,” he said. He died following his battle with the disease at 59 in October 2021. “The world knew him as Gunther (the seventh “Friend”), from the hit series Friends, but Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband,” his family said in a statement.

Robin Williams

Robin guest-starred alongside Billy Crystal. (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

While beloved for his comedy and many memorable movie roles (Dead Poet Society, Good Will Hunting, just to name a few) Robin Williams was one of the biggest stars to make a cameo appearance on Friends. He appeared as Tomas alongside fellow comedian Billy Crystal in the season 3 episode “The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion.” Tomas discovered that another man was sleeping with his wife, who turned out to be Tim (played by Billy) and the two men stormed out of Central Perk.

Robin died by asphyxia by hanging in August 2014. After his passing, an autopsy on his brain revealed that he’d had Lewy Body dementia. He was also diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s.

Fred Williard

Fred made a small cameo as a zoo attendant. (Shutterstock)

Fred Williard had a small cameo in the season two episode “The One After The Super Bowl: Part 1” as Dean Lipson. Known for a bunch of different characters, including appearances in This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and the Anchorman films, Fred’s Friends character was an admin at the San Diego Zoo who delivers some (false) bad news to Ross that a monkey has died.

Fred died in May 2020 at the age of 86. He’d gone into cardiac arrest after struggling with both myelodysplastic syndrome and coronary artery disease.

Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston appeared as himself on the show. (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

While many stars played characters on Friends, a few actors did make appearances as themselves throughout the show, and Charlton Heston is one of them. Charlton is an Academy Award-winning star, who appeared in tons of classic movies, like Ben-Hur and Touch of Evil. It’s fitting that in his appearance in the season 4 episode “The One With Joey’s Dirty Day,” he and Joey are supposed to appear in a movie together, and Joey uses the actor’s dressing room shower.

Later in his life, Charlton was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He died in April 2008 at 84 years old. It was later revealed that he was battling pneumonia when he passed away.

Gary Collins

Gary comedically hosted a telethon as himself on ‘Friends.’ (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

Gary Collins was another actor to appear as himself in the season 5 episode “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS.” He appears as himself hosting a fictional telethon pledge drive, which Joey is working the phone bank for. The role was fitting for Gary. As an actor, he had numerous daytime roles and even won a Daytime Emmy award. While some of his biggest roles were Night Gallery or the series The Sixth Sense, he appeared in tons of other TV programs, like Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, and many more. He also hosted numerous shows.

He died in October 2012 at age 74 from natural causes.

Ron Glass

Ron played a divorce lawyer on ‘Friends.’ ( Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock)

Ron Glass appeared in two episodes of Friends as Ross’ divorce lawyer Russell. Other than his cameo in Friends, Ron was known for his role as Shepherd Derrial Book on the cult classic series Firefly and the film Serenity. He also played Det. Ron Harris in Barney Miller. Ron died from respiratory in November 2016. He was 71.

Max Wright

Yet another regular in the series, Max Wright appeared in the first two seasons of Friends as Terry, the owner of Central Perk. Max was a veteran actor, known for roles in Alf as Willie Tanner, and the film All That Jazz. He battled lymphoma since 1995. The disease was in remission until 2019, when he died following complications at 75.

Conchata Ferrell

Conchata Ferrell was a small but memorable role during the season six episode “The One With Joey’s Porsche.” She played the judge who denied Ross and Rachel an annulment. She was most well-known as the character Berta on the sitcom Two and a Half Men, a role that earned her a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. She received the same nomination for a drama series in 1992 for her role on L.A. Law. She also appeared in a wide variety of memorable films such as Edward Scissorhands and Mystic Pizza. She died after going into cardiac arrest in October 2020 at the age of 77.

Taylor Negron

Taylor appears as a restaurant owner. (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

Taylor Negron was another one-off appearance as Allesandro, who owned a restaurant named after him. In the season 4 episode, Monica left a bad review for the chef at the restaurant. Taylor appeared in a wide variety of film and TV roles throughout his career, such as Bio-Dome and The Last Boy Scout. He died following a battle with liver cancer in 2015. He was 57.

Joel Beeson

Joel will always be remembered as ‘Hombre Man.’ (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

Joel Beeson briefly appeared as “The Hombre Man” later revealing that his name was “Todd” in the season 2 episode “The One With The Breast Milk.” His character is a perfume spokesman, which is fitting as Joel was also once a Preferred Stock cologne spokesman in the 90s. He was 51 when he passed away in October 2017.

Mary Pat Gleason

Mary appeared as a nurse in season one of the show. (AB1/Mandatory Credit: Adriana M. Barraza / WENN/Newscom/The Mega Agency)

Mary Pat  Gleason made a small apperance as Nurse Sizemore in the season one episode “The One With George Stephanopoulos.” Besides her brief role on Friends, Mary is remembered for parts in A Cinderella Story and The Crucible. She died at 70 from cancer in June 2020.

Shelley Berman

Shelley was a beloved standup comedian. (Unimedia/Shutterstock)

Shelley Berman was a comedy icon, and he perfectly brought his skills to the season 3 episode “The One Where Rachel Quits,” where he played the unbearable boss Mr. Kaplan Jr. Shelley was known as a standup comic, but he appeared in a variety of hit shows, such as Bewitched, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He also brought his chops to the big screen in hits like Meet The Fockers. He died from complications from Alzheimer’s in 2017. He was 92.

Stan Kirsch

Stan Kirsch appeared as a one-off boyfriend Ethan for Monica in the season 1 episode “The One With The Ick Factor.” Stan had a series of small roles in TV and movies, but he notably Richie Ryan in Highlander: The Series. Stan died by suicide in January 2020.

Audra Lindley

Audra Lindley played Phoebe’s grandmother in the season 2 episode “The One With Phoebe’s Dad.” Audra was a veteran actress, who was most well-known as Helen Roper in the classic sitcom Three’s A Company. She died at 79, following complications with leukemia in October 1997.

Paul Gleason

Paul Gleason was recognizable to Friends fans as Phoebe’s former boss Jack in the season 6 episode “The One That Could’ve Been.” Paul appeared in a number of comedies throughout his career, often as a straight man, most known for his role as Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club. He was 67 when he died from lung cancer in May 2006.

Kellie Waymire

Kellie Waymire played a mom who was friends with Phoebe, giving advice on adopting a child to Monica and Chandler in the season 10 episode “The One Where Ross is Fine.” Kellie appeared in various TV roles including Star Trek and Six Feet Under. She died from undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia in November 2003. She was 36.

Mike Hagerty

Mike had a recurring role as the building’s super. (Picture Perfect/Shutterstock)

Mike Hagerty had a recurring role as the building’s super Mr. Treeger throughout Friends, appearing in five episodes. He played various blue-collar roles with a comedic tilt throughout his career. He died after going into a seizure in May 2022. He was 67.

Peter Dennis

Peter Dennis was an English actor, who played Sherman Whitfield in the season three episode “The One Where Nobody’s Ready.” Peter appeared in a wide variety of roles, including lending voice to Shrek as an ogre hunter. He also appeared in the hit film Sideways. He died at 75 in April 2009.

Gretchen Wyler

Gretchen appeared as a widow on the show. (Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock)

Gretchen Wyler appeared in Friends as the widow Mrs. Burkart in the season four episode “The One With The Dirty Girl.” Monica and Phoebe cater at her husband’s funeral. Gretchen was a star of the stage and screen, appearing multiple times on Broadway and in the movie Private Benjamin, TV show Dallas, and much more. She was also a noted animal rights activist. She died from breast cancer in 2007 at 75.

Phil Leeds

Phil Leeds was a beloved character actor, making him perfect to play the widow, whose wife dies on Phoebe’s massage table in the season two episode “The One With The Lesbian Wedding.” Phil appeared in numerous classic movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The History of the World: Part 1, and Ghost. He died of pneumonia at 82 in August 1998.

Lilyan Chauvin

Lilyan Chauvin appeared as Joey’s grandmother in the season 5 episode “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt.” Born in France, Lilyan appeared in a wide variety of American films and TV shows throughout her career. She acted in cult classics like Silent Night, Deadly Night and The Universal Soldier but also critically-acclaimed films like Catch Me If You Can. She died at 82 from complications from breast cancer and heart disease in June 2008.

Alexis Arquette

Alexis appeared in small roles in two different episodes. (Shutterstock)

Alexis Arquette appeared as two very small roles in two episodes of Friends. She played a customer in “The One With Rachel’s Sister” and a waiter in drag in “The One With Chandler’s Dad.” Alexis’ father was comedian Cliff Arquette and she had famous siblings, including Patricia Arquette. She had small roles in both Pulp Fiction and Seed of Chucky. She contracted HIV in 1987, and she died of cardiac arrest in September 2016 at 47.

Beverly Garland

Beverly Garland plays the poker-instructing Aunt Iris in the season one episode “The One With All The Poker.”  Beverly appeared in a wide variety of B-movies throughout her career and also made small guest appearances on shows like The Twilight Zone, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Medic, which earned her a Primetime Emmy Nomination. She died at 82 from natural causes in December 2008.

Alaina Reed Hall

Alaina Reed Hall had a very short exchange as an admissions woman in the season one episode “The One With Two Parts: Part 2” where she called Monica an “idiot.” Alaina was well-known as a stage actress and had small parts in movies such as Cruel Intentions. She died at 63 following a battle with breast cancer in December 2009.

Richard Roat

Richard Roat appeared as Burt in the season 6 episode “The One Where Ross Dates A Student.” He appeared on other classic shows like The Doctors and Cheers and had a small role in the original Westworld film in 1973. He died of a heart attack at 89 in August 2009.

Danny Dayton

Danny Dayton played Buddy Doyle, a lawyer for Mr. Heckles, in the season 2 episode “The One Where Heckles Dies.” Danny appeared in a number of classic TV shows like All In The Family, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and many more. He also appeared in movies like Ed Wood and Guys and Dolls. He died emphysema in February 1999 at 75.

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