Wednesday, January 01, 2014

James Avery, RIP

Some sad news to start the new year, with word that James Avery has passed away at age 65 from complications of an undisclosed illness. With distinctive frame and booming voice, the actor (who was actually the subject of an Internet "death hoax" a few years ago) made his screen debut in 1980's The Blues Brothers, and worked steadily in a variety of character and one-off parts before landing his career-defining role as Phillip Banks, Will Smith's ever-wise, ever-suffering uncle on NBC's long-running sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which lasted for six seasons from the early to mid-90s.

In addition to his on-camera work (which included stints on That '70s Show and Star Trek: Enterprise), Avery was also a familiar presence in animation, giving voice to the Shredder in the original incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and voicing James Rhodes/War Machine in the 1990s Iron Man 'toon. I have a feeling that this will hit a lot of folks of my vintage especially hard, given the formative role that Fresh Prince played in so many of our lives, and the way Uncle Phil became a father figure not only to Will, but also those of us in the audience by proxy. After the jump, find a highlight reel of some of his memorable Fresh Prince moments:

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