James Avery death: Will Smith finally plays tribute to late ‘Uncle Phil’ star

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air star posted a moving message to the actor, who died on New Year's Eve aged 65 during open heart surgery

Will Smith has finally paid tribute to the late James ‘Uncle Phil’ Avery.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air star posted a moving message to the actor, who died on New Year's Eve aged 65 following complications that arose during open heart surgery.

"Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," he wrote.

James Avery Dies: Fresh Prince Cast Pay Tribute To Uncle Phil

"Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."

Smith accompanied his post with a picture of the Fresh Prince cast having reunited in 2011. He captioned it "the last time we were together".

Last week, Smith's silence was notable among the floods of tributes to Avery from the rest of the cast and the entertainment world.

His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, wrote on Facebook last week:

"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."

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Smith accompanied his post with a picture of the cast having reunited in 2011, captioning it "the last time we were together".

The news was originally broken by Avery's co-star - and son in the series - Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks.

Also taking to Facebook, Ribeiro wrote on his wall: "The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed.

"Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed."

Tatyana Ali, who played James' on-screen daughter Ashley Banks, similarly paid tribute on Twitter.

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 and Found, Booty Call  and drama Above The Rim, died suddenly last Monday morning in Hermosa Beach, California.

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