‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Star James Avery Dead at 68

'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Star James Avery Dead at 68

Avery, who played stern father “Uncle” Philip Banks, died of complications from open heart surgery in Glendale, California

Actor James Avery, age 68, died of complications from open heart surgery Tuesday evening in Glendale, California, his reps told TheWrap.

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The actor most recently wrapped work in September on Zach Braff's Kickstarter-funded “Wish I Was Here,” which is set to premiere at the 2014 Sundance International Film Festival.

Avery was best known to audiences for his portrayal of Uncle Phil on 1990s NBC comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” opposite star Will Smith. Alfonso Ribeiro, who first confirmed Avery's death via Twitter on Wednesday morning, played Phil's son, Carlton.

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The actor also famously gave voice to Shredder, the villain of cartoon series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” from 1987 to 1993. Avery worked steadily in television and film after the series’ run ended in 1996, including guest roles on “CSI,” “Grey's Anatomy” and most recently “The Young and the Restless” in 2012.

But complications from Type 2 diabetes, with which Avery was diagnosed in 2000, slowed his acting career. Avery suffered from kidney disease as well as problems with his left foot that required the actor to frequently use a wheelchair or walk with a cane.

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“It's a horrible disease,” Avery told a Philadelphia news station in 2010. “It eats you up piece by piece.”

Avery is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery, his mother, Florence Avery and his step-son Kevin Waters.

For the record: An earlier version of this report stated Avery's age as 65, based on information available at the time. TheWrap regrets the error.

  • Robin

    I'm so sad to learn of James’ passing. He was a lovely and talented man. We met when he guest starred on the Showtime comedy series, Brothers. We liked each other right away and it was such fun to run into him over the years. He will be missed.

    • Bill WULF

      it must have been a great pleasure to know him in person, its funny by watching a show you feel like you know the man but maybe rhat was his talent being genuine, he will be missed and hard to watch re-runs that i liked so much. thank you for making us smile and laugh .Bill Wulf

  • Trish Chasity

    Uncle Phil you will be sadly missed and have entertained audiences for years with your talents

  • fred

    R.I.P Mr. Avery aka Uncle Phil.

  • Mekonnen Wolde

    Uncle Phil you will be missed, You are in a better place .

    • JJ

      To say that someone is in a better place when they pass away is the worse thing you could possibly say. I highly doubt that his family feels like he is in a better place

      • Mekonnen Wolde

        Read this JJ , You might understand when your time come. Thank you for your comment.

        13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.( 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

  • a. thurman

    Mr. Avery will be missed! To his family you have my condolence!?

  • Daniel-zyn Braun

    Sorry to hear this – great actor and will be missed. But, can anyone do proof reading or add/subtract anymore. He was born 1948 and that is 52yrs to 2000 then + 13yrs after 2000 so he was 65yrs old as of November 27th, 2013 not 68yrs as the story says

    • Money Incorporated

      “For the record: An earlier version of this report stated Avery’s age as 65, based on information available at the time. TheWrap regrets the error.”

      Where did you get that he was born in 1948? He was born in 1945, which makes him 68.

  • Dave

    Sure is coincidental that James Avery, whose name was “Phil” on Fresh Prince died 1 day before Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers. I don't believe in coincidence.

  • Christopher J Cox

    James Avery thank you for voicing the Shredder, It played a good role in my childhood.

  • herbert espinoza

    If you don't take care of yourself…these are the consequences

  • Kevin Williams

    he was truly everyones uncle phil.

  • dome200q

    Night Uncle Phil, thanks for your time. It was enjoyed.

  • JDelarosa

    God bless u uncle Phil …
    My condolence to family. The Best is never forgotten. RIP

  • Brendan J. Riley

    What a great actor!! Him, will and carlton killed it together in the fresh prince. RIP James Avery. You'll always be missed.