James Avery dies: 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Uncle Phil was 68
James Avery, best known for his role as Uncle Phil on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died at age 68.
Avery's manager confirmed his death in a statement on Wednesday, Jan. 1, saying the actor on Tuesday in Glendale, California due to complications from open heart surgery. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson, Kevin Waters.
Avery played Phllip Banks, the rich uncle of Will Smith's character, on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," between 1990 and 1996. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Banks' son Carlton, said on Twitter, following news of Avery's death: "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."
"James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor," Tatyana Ali, who played Philip's daughter and Carlton's sister Ashley, said on her Twitter page. "We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be apart of me #JamesAvery."
Will's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, posted a comment about Avery on her Facebook page:
"Happy New Year everyone! I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend," she said. "James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James. J."
Avery also provided the voice of the villain Shredder in the cartoon series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" between 1987 and 1993. He was later replaced by Bill Martin.
Avery also appeared in films such as "The Brady Bunch Movie" in 1994 and most recently worked on "I Wish I was Here," which was directed by Zach Braff and is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.
Avery was born in Virginia and served in Vietnam after graduating high school. He studied at UC San Diego and majored in drama and literature.
Correction: James Avery died at the age of 68, not at the age of 67, as previously reported in a statement from his manager.