Will Smith Mourns Death of Fresh Prince Costar James Avery: “Every Young Man Needs an Uncle Phil,” Writes Star

James Avery and Will Smith on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"
Will Smith addressed Fresh Prince of Bel-Air costar James Avery's death, posting a message via Facebook on Sunday, Jan. 5 remembering his late, onscreen Uncle Phil in a Facebook post. Courtesy of Everett Collection

Will Smith is mourning the death of his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air costar James Avery. The actor publicly addressed Avery's death on Sunday, Jan. 5, for the first time since his late, on-screen Uncle Phil passed away last Tuesday, Dec. 31.

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"Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," wrote the father of two in a Facebook post. "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace," he shared, along with a 2011 image of himself on the red carpet beside Avery and the rest of the Banks family. "This photo was the last time we were together," the After Earth star wrote in quote marks in the final line of his touching tribute.

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Smith's message followed wife Jada Pinkett Smith's remembrance message on Wednesday, Jan. 1 in which she wrote, "I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend."

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Avery, who played the rigid-but-lovable Honorable Philip Banks on the popular NBC comedy, died at the age of 65 after suffering complications from open heart surgery. Along with Fresh Prince, he famously lent his booming voice to several animated shows including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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