‘Fresh Prince’ actor James Avery dies

'Fresh Prince' actor James Avery dies (Image 1)

NEW YORK (AP) – James Avery, the bulky character
actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honorable
Philip Banks in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has died.

Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The
Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following
complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.

Avery, who stood more than 6 feet tall, played the
family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV
comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks'
troublemaking nephew.

The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996,
was set in the Banks' mansion, where Smith's character was sent from
Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighborhood. Fans came to
know the imposing Banks as “Uncle Phil.”

Avery liked to say that the way to be an actor was
to act, and he had a busy and diverse career before, during and after
“Fresh Prince.” His TV credits included “Grey's Anatomy,” ''NYPD Blue”
and “Dallas,” and among his many films were “Fletch,” ''Nightflyers” and
“8 Million Ways to Die.” His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably
as Shredder in the animated TV series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

According to Snyder, he will be seen in the film
“Wish I Was Here,” directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to premiere
later this month at the Sundance festival.

Avery grew up in Atlantic City, N.J., and served in
the Navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. After returning to the states,
he settled in California and studied drama and literature at the
University of California at San Diego.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson Kevin Waters.

Copyright 2014 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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