US actor James Avery, most famous for his role as Uncle Phil in the 1990s TV hit sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died on New Year's Eve aged 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.
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 him for is as Philip Banks on the 1990s NBC series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, in which he played a role model to the young Will Smith's character, a fictionalised rapper version of himself.
The sitcom, which aired 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 neighbourhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as ``Uncle Phil”.
"I'm deeply saddened to say James Avery has passed away," 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, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month.
Avery died late Tuesday in hospital in Glendale, outside Los Angeles, "due to complications from open heart surgery," his publicist Cynthia Snyder told AFP in an email.
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery, his mother Florence Avery, and his stepson Kevin Waters.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-01-02