With 2014 not even being 24-hours old yet, news of the first celebrity death has already started to leak.
James Avery–who played Uncle Phil–on the popular sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” has passed away on Dec. 31, at 65 years of age.
Toni Benson, who was Avery’s manager, explained the actor’s death was related to a recent heart surgery. The story was first reported by CNN.
Avery’s first notable role came in the legendary film “The Blues Brothers,” and he also did voice over work in movies like “Fist of the North Star.” But it was his Uncle Phil role that made him a household name, as he seemed comfortable with being the punchline of the joke– enduring constant teasing from his nephew Will, played by film star Will Smith.
“The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” ran from 1990 to 1996 on NBC and the network aired 148 episodes in total. Many consider the show to be a classic for the silly humor and the warm messages it provided.
One of Avery’s last roles was in the film “Wish I Was Here,” starring Zach Braff, which is supposed to be released later this year.
In a recent interview he said there wasn’t a day that passed where he wasn’t referred to as Uncle Phil, but he was okay with that. “[I’m called Uncle Phil] always and I figure I’ll be like that until I die, but it’s good, it’s fine, I have no problem with that,” he said.
There’s been no word from Smith or the other cast members as of yet, but that’s likely to change in the coming days. The news of Avery’s death first made Internet waves when Alfonso Ribeiro–who played his son Carlton–issued a Tweet. “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away,” he wrote. “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
Image via YouTube