Beloved 'Fresh Prince' star James Avery dies at 68; played character Uncle Phil on hit 1990s sitcom

James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law as the Honorable Philip Banks in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 68.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery.

Avery was an accomplished actor who appeared in many movies and television shows including his stint as the voice of Shredder in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." His movie credits included "Fletch," "The Prince of Egypt" and "8 Million Ways to Die."

However his most famous role was that of Phillip Banks, the supportive, yet strict uncle to Will Smith's character on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

"Fresh Prince" co-star Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted news of Avery's passing, saying, "I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly."

Avery also has local ties, as he was a U.S. Navy veteran who once served aboard a ship based in San Diego and also a graduate of UC San Diego.

Watch some of Avery's work on the "Fresh Prince" below (mobile users:

Watch an interview Avery gave with Vision TV in 2010 (mobile users:

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