James La Rue Avery, who is popularly known as Uncle Phil, was born in 1945 on November 27, and was an American actor. Apart from his role as Uncle Phil, he was also known for his role as Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dr. Crippen on The Closer, Judge Michael Conover on L.A. Law, and many more; the list is long.
Before becoming an actor, he served in U.S. Navy during Vietnam War, and he also wrote poetry and T.V. scripts for PBS. In 1976, he earned his degree in drama and literature. He started his acting career in the 1980s and appeared in various series such as Hill Street Blues, Brothers, Amen, FM, L.A. Law, and many more. He was also in That 70s Show. James Avery was also popular for his role as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an American sitcom which is created by Andy and Susan Borowitz. The show started premiering on September 10, 1990, on NBC and went on till May 20, 1996. The show is one of NBC’s top hits. The show revolves around Will Smith, who’s an African-American teenager and was born and raised in West Philadelphia. Will accidentally hit a group of gang members with a basketball.
Being afraid of a confrontation, his mother sends him to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel Air’s neighborhood. Will belonged to the working class, and his clashes with the upper class make the show humorous. James Avery played the role of Will’s uncle, uncle Phil.
Recently, a new version of the show titled Bel-Air premiered its second season on February 23, 2023, on Peacock. With the release of the second season of the revised version of the show, audiences want to know what happened to their favorite Uncle Phil.
What Happened to Uncle Phil?
The cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was seen together on the silver screen after twenty-six years in a reunion on HBO Max in November 2020. Will Smith, who portrayed Will Smith in the show along with his co-workers, paid tribute to James Avery, who died on December 31, 2013, due to complications in his open heart surgery.
At the time of his death, James was just 68 years old. James Avery played the role of Phillip Banks, Will’s rich uncle, in the show.
In the tribute during their reunion, which was aired in November of 2020 on HBO Max, the cast of the show described him as the heart of the show. They all broke down and shed tears while remembering him and the moments they spent with him. The Cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air recreated their favorite moments with James. While recreating a scene in a reconstructed living room, Will said that he (James) pushed him so hard.
Remembering his moments on the show with James, Will said that his (James) thing was that he (Will) is in such a unique position and that responsibility, he must elevate his craft. He said, “You have to represent, and you are paving a way, and he just wouldn’t give me an inch,” while remembering his now passed-away co-worker.
On the reunion, Will also said that James Avery was a 6 foot 4, Shakespearean beast, and he wanted him to think that he was good.
He also described one moment with him in which he fell into his arms at the end of s scene, and James’ is holding Will, and when the shot pans off, he whispers into Will’s ear Now That’s Acting. Smith remembered one of his favorite moments with Avery was during the shoot of the episode in which his on-screen father returns and abandons him again.
During the shooting, Will was desperate to impress James but kept on messing up with lines and started becoming furious and started berating himself. At that time, James told him to get himself together, and the next take was the endgame. After the scene, they both shared a hug that’s when James said Now That’s Acting. While watching James Avery’s scenes on the show, everyone’s eyes turned glossy, and their vision became blurry.
How did James Avery die?
James Avery died at Glendale Memorial Medical Center due to complications in his open heart surgery. He died on December 31, 2013, and was 68 years old at that time. James had several health problems and was suffering from coronary heart disease and end-stage kidney disease and was at stage two of diabetes.
After the actor’s death, Will Smith said that some of his greatest lessons in acting, living, and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. He also said that every young man needs an Uncle Phil in life and ended it by saying Rest in Peace.