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Last week, we learned that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star James Avery had passed away due to complications following heart surgery. A few days later, Will Smith, who played the titular “Prince” in the series, has broken his silence to share a photo of some of the cast of the series the last time they were together, along with some touching words about Avery, whom he says thought him some of his greatest lessons about acting, living and being a respectable human being…
"Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," Smith wrote. "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."
The post (via THR), includes a snapshot that shows (left to right), Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks), Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks), Avery (Philip Banks) and Smith (Will Smith).
Avery died last week at the age of 65. While some may remember him as the voice of Shredder in the 90s animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Avery is likely best remembered for playing the role of Philip Banks or “Uncle Phil” on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The TV comedy, which aired in the early and mid-90s, proved to be a major turning point for Will Smith, who successfully transitioned from rapping/music to acting with the sitcom, and later went on to become the feature film star we know today.
As I mentioned when we first learned that Avery died, the dynamic between Will and his Uncle Phil was one of the best things about the show. Much of that related to their comedic chemistry, but one of the clips that I’ve seen circulating most since Avery’s death is the scene that showed Uncle Phil being there for Will when his father arrived in town and then took off, leaving Will feeling rejected and disappointed…
It’s a rare dramatic moment for the series that demonstrated what a great father-figure Uncle Phil was to Will. The fact that they often didn’t get along was mostly for comedic effect. When it mattered most, they were family. And from what Smith had to say in his recent Facebook post, it seems like he shared a bond with Avery as well and recognizes the importance of having a man like him in his life.
Once again, our thoughts go out to Avery’s friends and family in their time of loss.