James Avery of ‘Fresh Prince’ Fame Dead at 68

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  • NEW YORK (AP) — James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable Philip Banks in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has died.

    Avery’s publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.

    Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks’ troublemaking nephew.

    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.”

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    4 thoughts on “James Avery of ‘Fresh Prince’ Fame Dead at 68

    1. James Avery was a lot more accomplished actor than people realize. His acting resume was long andextensive. One of the terrific, positive black fathers portryaed on Television. There was an episode when Will Smith’s father ( played by Beb Vereen) lied to him and lefthim hanging. When Will started cryng Avery ( as Uncle Phil) hugged him in one of the more father/son embraces One of the best momemnts I ever saw on TV.
      RIP Mt. Avery

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