James Avery, the actor known for playing Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died on New Year’s Eve aged 68. His death was announced by his publicist who further explained that his death was due to “complications from open heart surgery”.
Avery played and came to be loved as Philip ‘Uncle Phil’ Banks, considered one of the best TV father-figure characters, between 1990 and 1996. The guardian to Will Smith’s rambunctious self-titled character, Uncle Phil was at the centre of many jokes with his firm-but-fair parenting approach. Uncle Phil famously threw Smith out of his Bel-Air mansion in several episodes.
Avery’s upbringing was not far fetched from Will’s character as he himself was raised by a single mother in Atlantic City, New Jersey, before being classically trained in acting. After serving in the Vietnam War as a member of the US Navy, Avery embarked upon an acting career. His first major screen role was an uncredited part in The Blues Brothers. Avery’s baritone voice led him to do voiceover work, and he lent his tones to The Shredder for the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
After The Fresh Prince, Avery made guest appearances on sitcoms including That ’70s Show and That’s So Raven. Avery was still working until September, shooting Wish I Was Here, a film directed by Zach Braff which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month.
What can we say but Uncle Phil would be fondly missed by many of us. Our hearts goes out to the family and friends of James Avery. He was a legend in his own right.
Watch some of his memorable moments