Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery dies

Joseph Marcell and James Avery in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air James Avery (r) appeared in 141 episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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The American actor James Avery has died aged 68, his publicist has said.

He was best known for his role as Phil Banks in US television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith.

His fellow cast member in the show Alfonso Ribeiro, who played his son Carlton, 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."

Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith's actress wife, also paid tribute to the actor, saying they had "lost yet another friend".

"Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him," she wrote on her Facebook page. "Rest in peace James."

Avery appeared in a number of films and TV shows including Grey's Anatomy and Star Trek: Enterprise.

He hosted TV programme Going Places, and provided voice-overs in animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Iron Man.

But he was best known for his portrayal of the judge and patriarch 'Uncle Phil' in 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

He appeared in 141 episodes of the programme alongside his on-screen nephew, Will Smith, and was reunited with most of the cast at a charity event two years ago.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told the Associated Press that Avery died on Tuesday in Glendale, California, following complications from open heart surgery.

James Avery Avery died following complications from open heart surgery

Avery served in Vietnam in the US Navy from 1968 to 1969, before he began writing TV scripts and poetry for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara, his mother, Florence Avery, and his stepson, Kevin Waters.

Avery had been working until September this year on the Zach Braff film Wish I Was Here, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

Ms Snyder said plans were being made for a memorial service.

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