Actor James Avery, the man who starred as the beloved Uncle Phillip Banks on the 90's sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, has passed away. A classically trained actor with over 170 screen credits to his name, Avery was more than just the man behind Uncle Phil, as the outpouring of grief that has followed the announcement of his death goes some way towards explaining.

James Avery
Avery leaves behind a lasting legacy

His role as family patriarch and determined attorney (and later judge) on Fresh Prince won him many fans and admirers, but Avery's talents stretched well beyond that one popular character. His distinguished voiced lent him a career as a successful voice artist, supplying the voice of War Machine in the 90's animated series of Iron Man, a variety of voices for the movie The Prince of Egypt and most notably for his role as Shredder in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. His further acting roles saw him appear on both film and television, with noted appearances in That 70's Show, My Wife and Kids, Dr Dolittle 2, Jake and the Fatman and The Brady Bunch Movie. His final role was in the upcoming Zach Braff film Wish I Was Here, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this year.

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on 27 November, 1945, Avery was a classically trained actor and lent himself to a number of stage productions before and during his move to screen acting. He had previously served in the military and was deployed in Vietnam from 1968-69. He had long harboured dreams of being an accomplished writer and regularly composed poetry, although it was whilst trying to make it as a scriptwriter that he became involved with acting and his true vocation was found.

Avery passed away from complications cause by open heart surgery at a Los Angeles hospital on 31 December, 2013, after a prolonged battle with his health. He is survived by his wife Barbara, who he married in 1988, and although he had no children of his own, he was a stepfather to his wife's son, Kevin Waters. He is also survived by his mother Florence.

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