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James Avery as Philip Banks and Will Smith as himself on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1996)

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion will bring together the original cast (original Aunt Viv included) to take a look back at their time working on the classic show. The occasion will, however, be somewhat bittersweet due to the absence of James Avery, who fans came to know for his role as Philip Banks or “Uncle Phil.” The actor died at the age 68 in 2013, and his passing was followed by numerous tributes from his co-stars and fans. He may not be able to join his Fresh Prince family for the reunion, but it sounds like his presence will still be felt during the special.

Fresh Prince star Alfonso Ribeiro explained that James Avery was frequently discussed during the reunion and even admitted that there are times where they spoke on how much they missed him. However, Ribeiro says there was never a sense of sorrow when his TV dad came up in conversation:

I think that there’s segments, obviously, where we, you know, we miss him and we talk about him, but we laugh about him too. He was an incredible, wonderful man. I don’t think it had a negative [or sad] energy, it had a very positive energy to the entire reunion. So I think people are going to enjoy it. I think people will really enjoy seeing how we came together and how we got to filming the show and our times during the show.

Based on Alfonso Ribeiro’s comments to The Grio, James Avery’s spirit will be in the room, as the stars discuss old times. The late actor was an integral part of the series, and it’s only fitting that he be honored in some form or fashion.

Avery’s Philip Banks was the stern but loving uncle of the fictionalized Will Smith for six seasons. The two would often bump heads, especially in the early episodes due to Will’s antics. But Uncle Phil would ultimately become a father figure to the Philly teen, who’s own father left when he was young. Not only did Avery play the role using his comedic sensibilities, but he also added a sense of depth and warmth to the lawyer-turned judge.

With the dramatic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot on the way, you have to wonder how Uncle Phil might be updated. But hopefully, the producers maintain the core essence of the character and find someone who can embody the part but also bring their own touch to it. And that actor is absolutely going to have some major shoes to fill, to say the least.

The more we hear about it, the harder the wait for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special becomes. It’s exciting to think about what we might learn about the making of the show, but it’s also just good to know that time will be set aside to honor the great James Avery.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is currently available to stream on HBO Max.

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