Fresh Prince's 'Uncle Phil' dies at age 68

Fresh Prince's 'Uncle Phil' dies at age 68
The cast of the television series 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' (L-R) James Avery, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana Ali, Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro reunite at the 2005 BET Awards in Hollywood, California in this file photo taken June 28, 2005. James Avery, a classically trained actor best known for his role as the wealthy uncle of the young rapper Will Smith in the 1990s television comedy ''The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,'' has died at age 65.

LOS ANGELES - American actor James Avery, most famous for his role as Uncle Phil in hit 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, died on New Year's Eve at the age of 68, his publicist said on Wednesday.

With a deep baritone voice, Avery regularly played judges, professors or doctors in TV shows in the 1980s and 90s, and did extensive voice work, including on animated projects.

His first big-screen role was an uncredited part in 1980s classic The Blues Brothers, and he enjoyed a prolific TV and movie career stretching over three decades.

But the role most people will remember Avery for is as Philip Banks on the 1990s NBC series, who played a role model to the young Will Smith's character, a fictionalised rapper version of himself.

"I'm deeply saddened to say James Avery has passed away," his Fresh Prince co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted. "He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Born James LaRue Avery in Virginia and raised in New Jersey, he had worked until September, shooting the film Wish I Was Here. Directed by Zach Braff, it will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month.

Avery died late on Tuesday in hospital in Glendale, outside Los Angeles, "due to complications from open-heart surgery", said his publicist, Ms Cynthia Snyder.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Mrs Barbara Avery, mother Florence Avery and stepson Kevin Waters.

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