The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Actor James Avery Dead at 68


It’s been reported that James Avery, Sr., the American character actor who achieved acclaim for playing Will Smith’s uncle, attorney (and later, judge) Philip Banks, on the hit television show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has passed away at the age of 68 years old due to complications from open heart surgery

Besides playing the beloved character on the show (and ranked as one of TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”), Avery was a prominent voice actor who supplied the voice of Shredder in the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” television cartoon and the voice of War Machine in the animated “Iron Man” series.

Other television appearances included recurring roles on “That ’70s Show,” “The Closer” and “L.A. Law,” as well as a one-time appearance on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Most notably, he appears in Zach Braff’s new Kickstarter-funded film Wish I Was Here, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival next month.

Avery was born in Virginia on November 27, 1945, and then raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey, serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 before moving to San Diego where he wrote poetry and television scripts.

Avery’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted: “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)