Will Smith Breaks Silence on James Avery's Death: 'Every Young Man Needs an Uncle'

Will Smith

Smith portrayed Avery's nephew on the 1990s sitcom; the actor died last week from complications from open heart surgery.

Will Smith is paying tribute to his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star James Avery, who died last week from complications from open heart surgery.

Smith, who portrayed Avery's nephew on the 1990s sitcom, posted an undated photo of himself along with Avery and the rest of the cast on his Facebook page late Sunday night, writing that the picture was taken the last time they were together.

STORY: Jada Pinkett Smith, 'Fresh Prince' Co-Stars Pay Tribute to James Avery

"Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," Smith wrote. "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."

Avery, who portrayed patriarch Judge Philip Banks in more than 140 episodes of Fresh Prince, died Dec. 31 at age 68 in Glendale.

Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery's son on the sitcom, which ran from 1990-96 on NBC, broke the news of his death on New Year's Day on social media.

"I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly," the actor wrote on Twitter. In a posting on Facebook, Ribeiro said, "The world has lost a truly special man."

Last week, Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who also appeared on Fresh Prince, posted her own thoughts on her Facebook page: "Damn. I just heard about James 'Uncle Phil' Avery. One of tv's great 3 dimensional characters. Something hard for African Americans to nab."

Avery also voiced Shredder in the 1987-93 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and James Rhodes in the Iron Man animated series.


Philiana Ng contributed to this report.