James Avery dead: Actor most famous as 'Uncle Phil' in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air passes away after heart surgery

Alfonso Ribeiro mourns passing of 'second father'
  • @James_Legge

James Avery, the actor most famous for his role as the judge "Uncle Phil" Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, has died, according to reports. He was 65 years old.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told the Associated Press that he died in Glendale, California, yesterday following complications from open heart surgery.

Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Banks' son, Carlton, in the show, tweeted: "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Avery's stern patriarch often clashed with a young Will Smith's cool teenage protagonist in the popular US show from the 1990s.

The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks' mansion, to which Smith's character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as Uncle Phil.

Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after Fresh Prince. His TV credits included Grey's Anatomy, NYPD Blue and Dallas, and among his many films were Fletch, Nightflyers and 8 Million Ways to Die. His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder in the animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

According to Ms Snyder, he will be seen in the film Wish I Was Here, directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to premiere later this month at the Sundance festival.

Avery grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and served in the navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the States, he settled in California and studied drama and literature at the University of California at San Diego.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson, Kevin Waters.

The news comes just a week after Fresh Prince of Bel Air producer Jeff Pollack was found dead aged 54.

The famed director, who was behind comedies such as Lost & Found and Above The Rim, died suddenly last Monday morning in Hermosa Beach, California.

He was found in Greenbelt Park, which is a popular spot for jogging and outdoor activities in the area. He was wearing jogging clothes, lieutenant Tom Thompson of the Hermosa Beach Police Department confirmed.

Read more on that story here.