Friends cast and devastating tragedies - Sudden death at 36 to cancer fight

Darcy Rafter November 16, 2022
Friends cast and devastating tragedies - Sudden death at 36 to cancer fight
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Not many shows have had an impact more profound than NBC’s Friends, the popular sitcom has influenced past and present generations and still has fans hooked across the globe.

For more than a decade, we followed Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica, and Joey through their ups and downs, as they explored life in New York City. Along the way, they met many people, and even the smallest of characters have had a great impact.

A lot has happened in the years since the show went off the air in 2004, and sadly, several Friends actors from the cast have passed away.

We remember the Friends cast and their unwavering impact on the show following their deaths.

Friends cast members and their legacy after tragic deaths

James Michael Tyler (Gunther)

James Michael Tyler played the recurring role of Gunther in Friends. He portrayed the coffee shop manager and had a slight (slight being an understatement) crush on Rachel Green.

In fact, he was even her boss at one point, albeit for a short period compared to her career in fashion.

However, despite his small and comedic scenes, he was a beloved member of the cast.

Sadly, James Michael Tyler died of prostate cancer at the age of 59 at his home in Los Angeles in 2021.

Ron Leibman (Dr Leonard Green)

Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage

Rachel’s father Dr Leonard Green only appeared in four episodes, but the hands-off-father who despised Ross was rather protective and kind to all three of his daughters.

Liebman had a long and successful acting career that included him receiving a Tony Award for his role in Angels In America.

Ron sadly passed away in December 2019 of pneumonia complications at the age of 82, but his Hollywood legacy remains. 

Conchata Ferrell (Judge)

Photo by Walter McBride/FilmMagic

Rachel Green and Ross Gellar’s turbulent romance churned out many hilarious happenings. Not forgetting when Rachel and Ross got drunk in Vegas and unexpectedly turned into getting married.

When they finally came to terms with what went on, Ross realizes this will be his third divorce, so he turns to a court judge for help. The judge, who appears to be having a bad day, denies the annulment.

Ferrell died in October 2020, at the age of 77, after suffering from heart issues earlier in the year.

Taylor Negron (Allesandro)

Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Now we can’t forget an important Friends cast member and their death, who helped one of the Gellars fulfil their lifelong dream. Negron played the head of Allesandro’s Italian restaurant. Fans will remember he visited Monica’s apartment after she wrote a review slating their food.

However, it all worked out when Allesandro tried Monica’s food himself and offered her the job of head chef at his restaurant. Finally, Monica’s lifelong dream of becoming a chef came true.

Sadly, Taylor died of liver cancer in 2015 at the age of 57. The actor had been courageously battling the illness since 2008.

Ron Glass (Russell)

Ron Glass played Ross Gellar’s divorce attorney, Russell, who even named Ross as one of his favorite client’s thanks to all his messy relationships.

One of the busiest years of business for Russel will have been when Ross divorced Emily Waltham (Helen Baxendale) after saying Rachel’s name at the altar, and then from Rachel after their Elvis wedding in Las Vegas.  

Glass passed away in November 2016 at the age of 71, from respiratory failure, as per NPR.

Max Wright (Terry)

Before Gunther came Terry, Max Wright played the coffee shop owner who appeared on screen for just two episodes. Terry notoriously hated Phoebe’s music, but it didn’t stop her strumming away Smelly Cat outside his shop.

Wright passed away at the age of 75 in June 2019 after a long battle with cancer.

Joel Beeson (Todd the Hombre Man)

Joel Beeson played the character of Todd in an episode titled The One With the Breast Milk.

The plot follows Joey taking a job as a perfume sprayer, but he finds himself in competition with the Hombre Man, who is selling Hombre Cologne. Of course, they also find themselves fighting over Annabel (Emily Proctor). 

Most followers of the Friends show and cast will remember the iconic episode, even now, and may not know about the star’s death.

Tragically, Joel Beeson died in October 2017 at the age of 51, of a congenital liver disease. He had been battling the condition for many years.

Robin Williams (Tomas)

Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage

Now, avid film fans cannot forget one of the most iconic cast members of Friends – even if they appeared in one opening scene – and the actor will remain in Hollywood history following his tragic death.

Movie legend, Robin Williams, appeared on Friends in 1997, as a character named Tomas. He appeared in the season 3 episode, The One With The Ultimate Fighting Champion, and completely improvised his lines.

Hilariously, Williams had just dropped by for a coffee but ended up in a scene with his pal, When Harry Met Sally star Billy Crystal – who played the character of Tim.

In the scene, Tomas begins to cry, claiming his wife was sleeping with another man. He thought at first the other man was her gynecologist, but it turned out it was Tim. Tomas finds this out and argues with Tim as they storm out of the coffee shop.

Robin Williams died from suicide in 2014 after suffering years of mental health issues. His widow Susan revealed after his death, the star had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Mary Pat Gleason (Nurse Sizemore)

Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Mary Pat Gleason portrayed receptionist Nurse Sizemore in the season one episode titled The One With George Stephanopoulos.

The plot follows Ross who gets hit in the face with a hockey puck and has to go to the hospital. Chandler deals with the grumpy nurse, who eventually ends up getting a hockey puck to the face, too.

Gleason died in 2020, at the age of 70 after losing a long battle with uterine cancer. 

Stan Kirsch (Young Ethan)

Appearing in the Season 1 episode titled The One With The Ick Factor, Kirsch played Young Ethan. In the episode, Ethan is Monica’s boyfriend, who turns out to be a high school senior.

Kirsch was best known for playing Richie Ryan in Highlander in the 1990s. The star also featured in the soap General Hospital.

Kirsch tragically died from suicide in January 2020 at the age of 51.

Fred Willard (Dean Lipson)

Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images

Now, another famous face joined the Friends cast before his death.

Comedian Fred Willard had a brief appearance in Friends, as a Zoo administrator called Dean Lipson. He is the suspicious Zoo worker who told Ross his pet monkey Marcel had died.

However, the Hollywood star had been in an array of TV shows and movies. The comedian, who had a unique charm, is remembered for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind.

Willard sadly passed away in May 2020 from a sudden heart attack (cardiac arrest) at the age of 86.

Kellie Waymire (Colleen)

Photo by Sebastian Artz/Getty Images

In the episode titled The One Where Ross is Fine, Kellie Waymire plays Colleen. Phoebe introduces Monica and Chandler to Colleen and her husband Bill.

They are there to discuss the adoption process Colleen and Bill went through with their son Owen. However, when Chandler runs into Owen and mentions the reason why they are there, chaos ensues.

Waymire passed away in 2003 of an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) at her home in Los Angeles. Colleen was 36 years old and her death came just a month after her Friends episode aired.

If you have been affected by this story, please see related helplines for support. In the US, contact Cancer Care at 800‑813‑HOPE (4673) or visit this link. You can also call the American Cancer Society on 1-800-227-234 or visit their website.

In the UK you can call 0808 800 6000 or visit Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Cancer Support.

If you are affected by any issues raised in the article or would like someone to speak to, please call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. You can also email them at [email protected] or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch in the UK. In the US, please visit Samaritans USA for more information.

You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741741 to get in touch with the Crisis Text Line. Americans can now call or text 988 to reach out and speak to a counsellor.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.