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Actor James Avery dead at 68 from complications related to open-heart surgery

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Before Will Smith hit the big screen, he filled up the small screen on the 1990's sitcom with actor James Avery on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Avery, who brought Smith's fictional "Uncle Phil" to life on the popular show, died Tuesday. He was 68.

The actor's manager, Toni Benson, said in a statement that the cause of death was complications from open-heart surgery, which he reportedly had on November 11. He died Tuesday evening at a Glendale, California hospital.

The Atlantic City, NJ native was best known for his role as Uncle Phil on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," but has since appeared in dozens of other TV shows and movies, most notably "CSI," "That '70s Show," "The Closer," and "L.A. Law." Avery was also a poet, and classically trained actor and scholar.

"Fresh Prince" co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted news of Avery's passing: "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Avery is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery; his mother, Florence Avery of Atlantic City; and a stepson, Kevin Waters.

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