James Avery, who portrayed the commanding yet cuddly father figure on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died at a Glendale hospital Tuesday of complications from open
His death was confirmed by his manager, Toni Benson.
Although trained as a Shakespearean actor, Avery won his widest audience in the role of Judge Philip Banks — "Uncle Phil" — on "Fresh Prince," which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996.
Ranked No. 34 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time, the Navy veteran's stern, straight-arrow character provided a foil for series star
Avery was mourned by "Fresh Prince" co-star
"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away," wrote Ribeiro, who played the spoiled son Carlton Banks. "He was a second father to me. I'll miss him greatly."
Born Nov. 27, 1948, in
Initially focused on a career in the theater, he trained in London and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and earned a bachelor's degree in drama and literature from UC San Diego.
Over the years he compiled extensive Shakespearean credits, including featured roles in "Much Ado About Nothing" at the
He first appeared on screen in an uncredited role in 1980's
During a career in television and film that spanned more than three decades, he lent his stentorian voice to several animated series, including 1987's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and 1990's "Iron Man." He also hosted the
He was frequently cast as a well-heeled, well-educated man who happened to be black, playing a judge on NBC's "L.A. Law" and
Avery said he did not mind the casting. "Kids watch these shows," he told the San Jose Mercury News in 1996. "They're sponges. They soak up everything. That's why it's important to show successful black families like the Banks and the Sparks, people who weren't born to the manor, but worked hard to get there. I think that's an important message."
Avery wrapped his final film, "Wish I Was Here," directed by Zach Braff, in September. The movie is set to premiere at the
Avery is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara Avery; his mother, Florence Avery; and his stepson, Kevin Waters.