Date of Birth: 27 November 1945, Pughsville, Virginia, US
Birth Name: James LaRue Avery
Nicknames: James Avery
James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has died.
Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told the Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, California, following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68.
Avery, who stood more than 6ft 5in tall, played Philip Banks, patriarch and wealthy lawyer (then judge), on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as his trouble-making 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.
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.
According to Snyder, he will be seen in the film Wish I Was Here, directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to premiere later this month at the Sundance festival.
Avery grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and served in the US navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the US, he settled in California and studied drama and literature at the University of California at San Diego.