'Uncle Phil,' actor James Avery dies after heart surgery
Actor played comically stern relation on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air'
Actor James Avery, perhaps best known for playing the irascible Uncle Phil on the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died at the age of 68. Avery suffered complications from open-heart surgery performed in November and passed away in a Glendale hospital earlier this week.
James Avery is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery; his mother, Florence Avery of Atlantic City; and a stepson, Kevin Waters.
Avery took the program very seriously as it depicted the "striving of the African-American ought to have been shown on television," Marcell said.
Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, posted the couple's condolences Wednesday on her verified Facebook page. "Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him," Pinkett Smith wrote.
Avery served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and first appeared onscreen as a dancer in an uncredited role in the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers." Classically trained he was a native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he was raised by a single mother.
Avery moved to San Diego, California, where he began writing TV scripts and poetry for PBS.
"I knew I loved the arts," Avery said in an interview. "I knew I wanted to be a writer, but the theater was something I had been involved in before." Avery other roles in TV shows and movies included "CSI," "That '70s Show," "The Closer" and several appearances as a judge on "L.A. Law."
Avery was a favorite casting choice for the roles judges, professors and doctors, he was in high demand as a voice actor. If you're a certain age, you may recall his voice as Shredder in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series and James "Rhodey" Rhodes in the 1990s animated series version of "Iron Man."
"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which aired from 1990 to 1996, was Avery's finest hour. Former rap star Will Smith starred as a Philadelphia teenager sent to live with his wealthy Los Angeles relatives. As Banks, a former civil rights activist and Harvard Law-trained attorney, Avery provided a role model for Smith's sometimes wild character.
While an elegant and eloquent individual, Avery could be forthright. "You can either be a movie star or an actor. I'm an actor," Avery said. "(But) I've done pretty good," he said in a 2007 interview.
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery; his mother, Florence Avery of Atlantic City; and a stepson, Kevin Waters.
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