Stars have taken to social media to pay tribute to American actor James Avery, who passed away on New Year’s Eve.
The 68-year-old actor, who played Uncle Phil in hit 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, died following complications during open heart surgery.
Recent I’m a Celebrity contestant Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery’s on-screen son Carlton Banks in the NBC sitcom, broke news of the star’s death on Twitter yesterday, 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. pic.twitter.com/UrW0EeBFbO
— Alfonso Ribeiro (@alfonso_ribeiro) January 1, 2014
Ribeiro also took to Facebook to add, “The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed.”
Will Smith, who played Uncle Phil’s wayward nephew, is yet to release a public statement, but his wife Jada Pinkett Smith has taken to her official Facebook page to say: “We have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”
Other stars soon followed suit. Tatyana Ali, who starred as Avery’s on-screen daughter Ashley, said:
James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be apart of me #JamesAvery
— Tatyana Ali (@TatyanaAli) January 1, 2014
While Tyra Banks, who starred in a number of episodes as Will Smith’s on-screen girlfriend Jackie Ames added:
Sending condolences to the family of James Avery, "Uncle Phil" of the Fresh Prince. I'll always remember how warm he was to me on set.
— Tyra Banks (@tyrabanks) January 2, 2014
James Avery is best known for his role as patriarch Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran for six seasons between 1990 and 1996, but he also starred in numerous films and TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Dolittle and That ’70s Show.
Avery will also appear in upcoming Zach Braff comedy Wish I Was Here, which is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.