NEW YORK -- James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law at home and on the job as the Honourable Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has died.
Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told The Associated Press that Avery died Tuesday in Glendale, Calif., following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68, Snyder said.
Avery, who stood more than six feet tall, played the family patriarch and a wealthy attorney and judge on the popular TV comedy that launched the acting career of Will Smith as Banks' troublemaking nephew.
The sitcom, which aired on NBC from 1990 to 1996, was set in the Banks' mansion, to which Smith's character was sent from Philadelphia when things got tough in his own neighbourhood. Fans came to know the imposing Banks as "Uncle Phil."
Avery had a busy and diverse career before, during and after Fresh Prince. His TV credits included Grey's Anatomy, NYPD Blue and Dallas, and among his many films were Fletch, Nightflyers and 8 Million Ways to Die. His voice alone brought him many jobs, notably as Shredder in the animated TV series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
According to Snyder, he will be seen in the film Wish I Was Here, directed by Zach Braff and scheduled to première later this month at the Sundance festival.
Avery was mourned by his Fresh Prince co-star Alfonso Ribeiro on Twitter Wednesday morning.
"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away," Ribeiro, who played Carlton, tweeted. "He was a second father to me. I'll miss him greatly."
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, and stepson Kevin Waters.
-- The Associated Press/L.A. Times