James Avery dies: 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air's' Uncle Phil was 65

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James Avery, best known for playing "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" patriarch and Will Smith uncle, Philip Banks, has died at the age of 65. Reports indicate that the actor passed away at a Los Angeles hospital on the night of New Year's Eve (Dec. 31).

Avery's "Fresh Prince" co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro posted a sad tweet on the morning of Jan. 1:



TMZ.com confirmed the report, adding the information that Avery had recently undergone open-heart surgery. He reportedly died of complications from that surgery.

In addition to his work on "Fresh Prince," Avery boasted a large number of acting credits over more than 30 years. He recurred on "Hill Street Blues" early in his career and worked as a guest actor on TV throughout the first half of the 1980s. Roles on "Beauty and the Beast" in 1988 and "L.A. Law" between 1988 and 1992 led to "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," starting in 1990.

Avery was also well-known for his voiceover work -- he was the voice of Shredder in the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series. Since the end of "Fresh Prince," Avery has appeared regularly on a wide variety of television in recent years, from "The Closer" to "That's So Raven."

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