TORONTO — Actor James Avery, best known for playing Uncle Phil on the Will Smith sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died Tuesday. He was 68.
“I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” read a Twitter message from Alfonso Ribeiro, who played his son, Carlton. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
The sad news was confirmed Wednesday by Avery’s publicist, Cynthia Snyder (who said he was born in 1945, not 1948 as widely reported).
Avery died in a California hospital, where he was reportedly recovering from heart surgery.
“I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend,” wrote Jada Pinkett Smith, whose husband played Avery’s nephew on Fresh Prince, on Facebook. “Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for six season beginning in 1990 and continues to run in syndication.
“James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor,” tweeted Tatyana Ali, who played his daughter. “We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be apart of me.”