James Avery (actor)

James Avery

James Avery at the 2013 HAL Awards
Born James LaRue Avery
(1945-11-27)November 27, 1945
Pughsville, Virginia, U.S.
Died December 31, 2013(2013-12-31) (aged 68)
Glendale, California, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from open heart surgery
Occupation Actor, poet
Years active 1980–2013
Spouse(s) Barbara Avery (m. 1988–2013)

James LaRue Avery (November 27, 1945 – December 31, 2013) was an American actor. He played patriarch Philip Banks in the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990−96). This character was ranked #34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." He also provided the voice of Shredder in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series, as well as War Machine in the animated series Iron Man (1994−95) and Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (1985). He also played Michael Kelso's commanding officer at the police academy late in the series run of That '70s Show (2004).

Life and career

Avery was born James LaRue Avery in Pughsville, Virginia on November 27, 1945 and raised in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[1][2] He served in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Navy from 1968–1969, after graduating high school.[3] Later on, he moved to San Diego, California, where he began to write poetry and TV scripts.[3]

In addition to his fame in sitcoms, he did voice acting for many animated series, most notably the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series (as the voice of Shredder) and James Rhodes/War Machine in the 1990s Iron Man series.[4]

Avery was the commencement speaker for his alma mater, UC San Diego's Thurgood Marshall College in 2007 and again in 2012.[5]

Personal life

In 1988, Avery married Barbara.[6] He had no children of his own, but was a stepfather to his wife's son Kevin Waters.


On December 31, 2013, Avery died at age 68 from complications following open heart surgery at Glendale Memorial Medical Center.[3][7][8] He is survived by his mother Florence Avery (1924-2016), as well as his wife and stepson.[9]

Janet Hubert, who portrayed his original wife on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, said after his death, "RIP James, all the world is a stage, and we are all merely players in this production called LIFE."[10] Will Smith commented on his death by saying, "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."[11] Joseph Marcell called Avery a "gentle giant".[8]

The song "No Role Modelz" from 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole pays tribute to Avery. It contains the lyric "First things first rest in peace Uncle Phil. For real, you the only father that I ever knew."

Avery's remains were later cremated and were scattered near the Pacific Ocean.


Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Blues Brothers Man Dancing Uncredited role
1980 The Stunt Man Uncredited role
1985 Fletch Detective #2
1985 Appointment With Fear Connors
1986 Fist of the North Star Fang Voice role (1991 Streamline Pictures dub)
1986 The Eleventh Commandment Larry
1986 8 Million Ways to Die Deputy D.A.
1986 The Ladies Club Joe
1986 Stoogemania Gulch
1986 Extremities Security Guard
1987 Deadly Daphne's Revenge Det. Wood
1987 Three for the Road Clarence
1987 Nightflyers Darryl
1988 License to Drive Les' DMV Examiner
1991 The Linguini Incident Phil
1991 Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time Lt. Coberly
1991 Shout Midnight Rider Voice role
1993 Little Miss Millions Agent Noah Hollander
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Mr. Steve Yeager
1997 Spirit Lost Dr. Glidden
1998 12 Bucks Slow
1998 The Prince of Egypt Additional Voices Voice role
1999 After Romeo
1999 Out in Fifty Cappy
2000 Dancing in September Mr. Warner
2001 Chasing Sunsets Mr. Burken
2001 Honeybee Larry Dukes
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2 Eldon
2002 Wheelmen Vice President
2004 Raise Your Voice Mr. Gantry
2004 Hair Show Seymour Gold
2005 Lethal Eviction Gus
2005 The Third Wish George
2005 A Christmas Wish Saint Short film
2006 Restraining Order Judge Sanderson
2006 Think Tank Uncle John
2006 Danika Teddy Johnson
2007 Who's Your Caddy? Caddy Mack
2007 Divine Intervention Rev. Matthews
2008 His Good Will Mr. Cooper Short film
2008 Leave with It Dr. Leon Short film
2009 Let the Game Begin Mark Hanley
2009 Steppin: The Movie The Chancellor
2010 Stride George
2010 The Grind Modelo Snipes
2012 Valediction Edward Short film
2014 Wish I Was Here Audition actor #2 Avery's last performance in a film


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Antony and Cleopatra Mardian TV movie
1983 Tales of the Gold Monkey Gabriel Episode: "God Save the Queen"
1983 Newhart Construction Guy Episode: "Heaven Knows Mr. Utley"
1983 The Jeffersons Coleman Episode: "Father Christmas"
1983, 1984 Simon & Simon Huey, Roy 2 episodes
1984 Hill Street Blues Tolliver 3 episodes
1984 Legmen No Neck Episode: "I Shall Be Re-Released"
1984 Hardcastle and McCormick Episode: "Scared Stiff"
1984 Going Bananas Hank
1984 Webster Judge Episode: "Webster Long (2)"
1984 Fist of the North Star Fang (voice)
1984 The Dukes of Hazzard Charlie Episode: "Cool Hands, Luke & Bo"
1984, 1985 Brothers Bubba Dean 2 episodes
1985 Street Hawk Councilman Waters Pilot
1985 St. Elsewhere Mental Patient Episode: "Give the Boy a Hand"
1985 Cagney & Lacey Episode: "Who Says It's Fair" (1)
1985 Kicks Stanley TV movie
1985 Space Jean-Marie CBS miniseries
1985 Scarecrow and Mrs. King Nabuti Episode: "Murder Between Friends"
1985 Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling Junkyard Dog (voice)
1985 George Burns Comedy Week Episode: "The Assignment"
1985 The A-Team Episode: "The Heart of Rock n' Roll"
1985 Moonlighting Reuben King Episode: "Twas the Episode Before Christmas"
1986 Karate Kommandos Additional voices
1986 Amazing Stories Chief Hansen Episode: "Hell Toupee"
1986 Rambo and the Forces of Freedom Turbo (voice)
1986 Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Movie Hank Dudney TV movie
1986 Condor Cas TV movie
1986 Sunday Drive Oliver TV movie
1986−1989 The Real Ghostbusters Killerwatt / Judge / Additional voices 3 episodes
1986−1988, 1989 Amen Arnie Samples / Rev. Crawford 5 episodes
1987 Jake's M.O. Abel Barnes Unsold pilot/TV movie
1987 Timestalkers Blacksmith TV movie
1987 Jake and the Fatman Episode: Fatal Attraction
1987, 1989 Valerie Judge N. Keller / Mr. Erdman 2 episodes
1987−1993 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder (voice) 103 episodes
1988 Dallas Judge Fowler Episode: "Malice in Dallas"
1988 Beauty and the Beast Winslow
1988 227 Jo-Jo Episode: "My Aching Back"
1988 Heart and Soul Harlan Sinclair Pilot
1988−1992 L.A. Law Judge Michael Conover 9 episodes
1989 Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal Earl TV movie
1989 Roe vs. Wade TV movie
1989 FM Quentin Lamoreaux
1989 A Different World The Pin Punisher Episode: "To Have and Have Not"
1989 Turn Back the Clock Physical Therapist TV movie
1990 Night Court Judge Hopkins Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues" (1)
1990 Capital News Pilot
1990 To My Daughter TV movie
1990−1996 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Philip Banks 148 episodes
1991 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder (voice) TV movie
1991 The Legend of Prince Valiant Sir Bryant (voice) 9 episodes
1992 Roc Dale Hammers Episode: "The Car Accident from Heaven"
1993 Without Warning: Terror in the Towers Fred Ferby TV movie
1993−1994 American Experience Charles Hamilton Houston / Narrator 2 episodes
1994 Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never Die Chess Player TV movie
1994 A Friend to Die For Agent Gilwood TV movie
1994 Aladdin Haroud Hazi Bin (voice) 9 episodes
1994−1995 Iron Man War Machine (voice) 7 episodes
1995 ABC Weekend Special Headman (voice) Episode: "Jirimpimbira – An African Folk Tale"
1995 Murder One Judge Nathaniel Alexander Episode: "Chapter Five"
1996 Gargoyles The Shaman (voice) Episode: "Walk About"
1996 Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys Gor-illa/Gor (voice) 26 episodes
1996 Spider-Man War Machine (voice) 2 episodes
1996−1998 Sparks Alonzo Sparks 40 episodes
1996, 1998 In the House Mediator / Sampson Stanton 2 episodes
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Father (voice) Episode: "The Golden Goose"
1997 Extreme Ghostbusters Danny (voice) Episode: "Dry Spell"
1998 The Advanced Guard Fred TV movie
1998 You Lucky Dog Calvin Bridges TV movie
1998 The Wild Thornberrys Gorilla (voice) Episode: "Valley Girls"
1999 Vengeance Unlimited Judge Christopher Washington Episode: "Legalese"
1999 King's Pawn Cecil Pilot
1999 For Your Love Rev. Hicks Episode: "Mother Load"
1999 Family Law Episode: "Damages"
1999, 2000 Pepper Ann Mr. Clapper 3 episodes
2000 Bull Prof. Gilbert Granville Episode: "What the Past Will Bring"
2000 One World William Richard Episode: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
2000 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Preston Cash Episode: "Unfriendly Skies"
2000 Two Guys and a Girl Judge Episode: "Rescue Me"
2000, 2002 Dharma & Greg Walter 2 episodes
2001 Epoch Dr. Solomon Holt TV movie
2001 The Jamie Foxx Show Reverend Episode: "Always and Forever"
2001 Strong Medicine Harold Jenkins Episode: "Wednesday Night Fever"
2001 The Legend of Tarzan Chief Keewazi (voice) 3 episodes
2001 The Proud Family Crandall Smythe (voice) Episode: "Spelling Bee"
2001−2003 Soul Food Walter Carter 4 episodes
2002 Philly Dean Mark Clivner Episode: "Here Comes the Judge"
2002 Judging Amy Mr. Ruff Episode: "Damage Control"
2002 Nancy Drew Prof. Shifflin TV movie
2002−2003 The Division Charles Haysbert 9 episodes
2003 Reba Judge Samuel Bennett Episode: "The Feud"
2003 Crossing Jordan Dr. Erkhart Episode: "Conspiracy"
2003 Street Smarts Contestant Episode: "May 16, 2003"
2003 All About the Andersons Roscoe Episode: "Flo's Dream"
2003−2004 All of Us Lucas 2 episodes
2004 That '70s Show Officer Kennedy 3 episodes
2004 Charmed Zola Episode: "A Call to Arms"
2004 NYPD Blue Steve Pines Episode: "Great Balls or Ire"
2004 Girlfriends Dr. Couch Episode: "Maybe Baby"
2004 That's So Raven Presto Jones Episode: "Opportunity Shocks"
2005−2007 The Closer Dr. Crippen 11 episodes
2005 My Wife and Kids Professor Tillman Episode: "Study Buddy"
2005 Star Trek: Enterprise General K'Vagh 2 episodes
2005 Living With Fran Mr. Bryant Episode: "Learning with Fran"
2006 Take 3 Judge Sanderson Episode: "Study Buddy"
2008 Eli Stone Mason Andrews Episode: "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
2009 Sherri Redmond 4 episodes
2012 Grey's Anatomy Sam Episode: "One Step Too Far"
2012 The Young and the Restless Judge Roy Daley 2 episodes
2013 Call Me Crazy: A Five Film Dr. Beckett TV movie
2013 Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer Judge Parsons TV movie

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
1989 Splash Mountain Br'er Frog
1995 Animated Storybook: The Lion King Narrator
2011 Kinect Disneyland Adventures Br'er Bear


  1. Keepnews, Peter (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, 'Fresh Prince' Actor, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  2. "James Avery, Uncle on "Fresh Prince," Dead at 68". January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Messer, Lesley (January 1, 2014). "'Fresh Prince' Star James Avery Died at 68". Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  4. Heigl, Alex (January 2, 2014). "Watch James Avery Talk About Voicing Shredder in the Ninja Turtles Cartoon". Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  5. "James Avery". Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  6. "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - James Avery as Philip Banks". TBS. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  7. "Uncle Phil: Fresh Prince Star James Avery Dies". Sky News. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  8. 1 2 Respers France, Lisa (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, star of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' dies at 68". CNN. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  9. Dillon, Nancy; Margaret Eby; Zayda Rivera (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, Fresh Prince of Bel Air star, dies at 65". Daily News. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  10. James Avery Dead |
  11. Will Smith breaks silence on James Avery's death

External links

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