James Avery, best known as Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, passed away on December 31 at the age of 68.
According to Deadline, Avery passed away in Glendale, CA of complications from open heart surgery. The actor recently complete work in Zach Braff’s Kickstarter-funded film Wish I Was Here, premiering at Sundance. It was his final role.
Avery was born in 1945 and was a Navy Vietnam veteran. His career started in San Diego writing poetry and TV scripts for PBS. He began acting in 1980 with an uncredited role in The Blues Brothers. He also starred in a variety of movies and TV shows like The Jefferson’s, La Law, and Grey’s Anatomy. He lent his voice to the character of Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series during the mid ’80s and ’90s.
His most noted role was Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show put him on the map and ran from 1990 to 1996. Fresh Prince also helped launch the career of Will Smith. Actor and co-star Alfonso Ribeiro sent his condolences via Twitter.
“I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” Ribeiro said. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
Avery’s death came less than a week after co-creator/writer/producer of Fresh Prince, Jeffrey Pollack.