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Rest in peace, Uncle Phil - 'Fresh Prince' star James Avery dead at 68

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James Avery, best known for his role as the family patriarch Philip Banks on 90s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” died on Dec. 31 following complications from open-heart surgery performed in November. He was 68 years old.

Avery’s “Fresh Prince” co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro, took to Twitter this afternoon to share the news of his on-screen father’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.”

Jada Pinkett-Smith, wife of “Fresh Prince” star Will Smith, also took to social media to send her family’s condolences, via Facebook:

“Happy New Year everyone! I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”

James Avery was raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey and served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Though most would recognize him as the beloved Uncle Phil on "Fresh Prince," Avery is widely known for lending his voice to the villain Shredder in the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series from 1987-1993,. Avery’s career spanned across sitcoms, films, and animation, his most recent project being Zach Braff’s film "Wish I Was Here,” which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

Our condolences go out to Avery's family, friends, and fans worldwide whom will miss his tremendous talent. Rest in peace, James.

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