Will Smith eulogized his late “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” costar James Avery, his television father figure, with a reverential Facebook message posted Sunday.
The 45-year-old mega-star, whose rap career was parlayed into a blockbuster film career after the 1990s family-friendly comedy, posted a photo of himself alongside Avery and their “Fresh Prince” costars Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons and Alfonso Ribeiro, who played the wealthy Banks children. Avery played Smith’s domineering Uncle Philip Banks, better known as Uncle Phil, on the NBC sitcom, which aired from 1990 to 1996.
“Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace,” read the caption on Smith’s official Facebook page.
Avery’s Judge Philip Banks took in the ragamuffin teen at his posh manor in Bel-Air following “one little fight” in Smith’s native Philadelphia. Avery died on Dec. 31 at a Glendale hospital following complications from open-heart surgery. He was 65.
The group snapshot was taken the last time the costars were all together, the caption said, but it is unclear when that was.
Soon after his death, Ribeiro, who played Phil’s pretentious son, Carlton Banks, remembered the actor on Twitter.
“I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” he wrote on New Year’s Day. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
Ali, who played Phil’s streetwise youngest child, Ashley, also shared a few words about the late Avery.
“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,” she tweeted, later sharing a few photos of Avery on the set of “Fresh Prince.”
Avery’s posthumous body of work includes his final film, “Wish I Was Here,” directed by Zach Braff, which wrapped in September. The dramedy is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this month.
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