James Avery

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Avery
Avery in 2001
James La Rue Avery

(1945-11-27)November 27, 1945
DiedDecember 31, 2013(2013-12-31) (aged 68)
Years active1980–2013
Barbara Avery
(m. 1988)

James La Rue Avery (November 27, 1945 – December 31, 2013) was an American actor. He was best known for his roles as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Judge Michael Conover on L.A. Law, Steve Yeager in The Brady Bunch Movie, Haroud Hazi Bin in Aladdin, and Dr. Crippen on The Closer (2005–2007).

Early life[edit]

Avery was born on November 27, 1945, in Pughsville, Virginia (present day Suffolk, Virginia,) to mother Florence J. Avery. His father denied paternity and was not listed on his birth certificate. Florence would eventually move James to Atlantic City, New Jersey.[1][2] He served in the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969,[3] and eventually moved to San Diego, California, where he began to write poetry and TV scripts for PBS.[3] He won an Emmy for production during his tenure there, and then received a scholarship to UC San Diego, where he attended Thurgood Marshall College (then Third College), earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and literature in 1976.[4]


Avery began his career in the 1980s with appearances in television series such as NBC's Hill Street Blues, Showtime sitcom Brothers as Bubba Dean, Amen, FM and L.A. Law. In the 1990s, he achieved prominence for his role as Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a character that was ranked number 34 in TV Guide's "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time".[5] After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended, he played the lead role of Alonzo Sparks in the UPN comedy series Sparks that lasted for two seasons. Other notable roles in television included Dr. Crippen in The Closer, Charles Haysbert in The Division, and Michael Kelso's commanding officer at the police academy late in the series run of That '70s Show.

Among his most notable voice credits are the voices of Shredder in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and James Rhodes/War Machine in the 1990s Iron Man series.[6] He also lent his powerful bass voice as Junkyard Dog in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (1985–1986), Turbo in Rambo and the Forces of Freedom (1986), and Haroud Hazi Bin in Aladdin (1994).

Avery was the commencement speaker for his alma mater, UC San Diego's Thurgood Marshall College, in 2007 and again in 2012.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1988, Avery married his girlfriend Barbara.[8] Barbara was dean of student life at Loyola Marymount University.[9] He had no biological children, but was a stepfather to Barbara's son, Kevin Waters.[10]


On December 31, 2013, Avery died at the age of 68 at Glendale Memorial Medical Center.[3][11][12][13][14] His publicist, Cynthia Snyder, told the Associated Press that Avery died following complications from open heart surgery.[15] Janet Hubert, who portrayed his on-screen wife Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for the first three seasons, said after his death: "RIP James, all the world is a stage, and we are all merely players in this production called LIFE."[16] Will Smith commented on Avery's death, 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."[17] Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery's on-screen son Carlton said, “I'm deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly".[18] Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey) called Avery a "gentle giant".[12]

Avery's remains were cremated and scattered near the Pacific Ocean.[19] In April 2020, Will Smith reunited with the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on a video conference honoring Avery's best moments on the show.[20][21][22]


Barbara Avery and actress Daphne Maxwell Reid at the inaugural AveryFest in James Avery's hometown of Suffolk, Virginia

AveryFest is an annual African-American cultural and music festival held in the United States. The event, named in honor of James Avery, had its inaugural event September 2, 2023 in Avery's hometown of Suffolk, Virginia. The event is held at Bennett's Creek Park each year, only minutes away from the Pughsville neighborhood where Avery was born. [23]

In 2023, the first year of the festival included special guest appearances from Avery's wife, Barbara Avery, his TV wife from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, actress Daphne Maxwell Reid, and a special jazz spotlight in memory of Avery, who loved jazz music. [24]



Year Title Role Notes
1980 The Stunt Man Customer at Diner Uncredited
1980 The Blues Brothers Dancer Uncredited
1985 Fletch Detective #2
1985 Appointment with Fear Connors
1985 Stoogemania Gulch
1986 Fist of the North Star[25] Fang Voice (1991 Streamline Pictures dub)
1986 The Eleventh Commandment Larry
1986 8 Million Ways to Die Deputy
1986 The Ladies Club Joe
1986 Extremities Security Guard
1987 Three for the Road Clarence
1987 Nightflyers Darryl
1987 Deadly Daphne's Revenge Det. Wood
1987 Jake's M.O. Abel Barnes
1988 License to Drive Les' DMV Examiner
1991 Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time Lt. Coberly
1991 Shout Midnight Rider Voice
1991 The Linguini Incident Phil
1993 Little Miss Millions Agent Noah Hollander
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Steve Yeager
1997 Spirit Lost Dr. Glidden
1998 12 Bucks Slow
1998 The Prince of Egypt[25] Additional Characters Voice
1999 Out in Fifty Cappy
1999 After Romeo
2000 Dancing in September Mr. Warner
2001 Honeybee Larry Dukes
2001 Dr. Dolittle 2 Eldon
2001 Chasing Sunsets Mr. Burken
2004 Raise Your Voice Mr. Gantry
2004 Hair Show Seymour Gold
2005 Lethal Eviction Gus Winter
2005 The Third Wish George
2005 Wheelmen Vice President
2005 A Christmas Wish Saint Short
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
2008 Leave with It Dr. Leon Short
2009 Steppin: The Movie The Chancellor
2010 Let the Game Begin Mark Hanley
2010 Stride George
2010 The Grind Modelo Snipes
2012 Valediction Edward Short
2014 Wish I Was Here Audition actor #2 Final role, posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Antony and Cleopatra Mardian Television film
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"
1984 Fist of the North Star Fang Voice; English dub
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"
1985 Kicks Stanley Television film
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 Story Hank Dudney Television film
1986 Condor Cas Television film
1986 Sunday Drive Oliver Television film
1986-1989 The Real Ghostbusters Killerwatt / Judge Voice, 3 episodes
1986-1989 Amen Arnie Samples / Rev. Crawford 5 episodes
1987 Jake's M.O. Abel Barnes Television film
1987 Timestalkers Blacksmith Television film
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 Television film
1989 Roe vs. Wade Television film
1989 FM Quentin Lamoreaux TV series
1989 A Different World The Pin Punisher Episode: "To Have and Have Not"
1989 Turn Back the Clock Physical Therapist Television film
1990 Night Court Judge Hopkins Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues"
1990 Capital News Pilot
1990 To My Daughter Television film
1990-1996 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Philip Banks Main role; 148 episodes
1991 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shredder Voice, television film
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 Television film
1993 Family Matters Himself Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"
1993-1994 American Experience Charles Hamilton Houston / Narrator 2 episodes
1994 Hart to Hart: Old Friends Never Die Chess Player Television film
1994 A Friend to Die For Agent Gilwood Television film
1994 Aladdin Haroud Hazi Bin Voice, 11 episodes
1994-1995 Iron Man[25] Jim Rhodes / 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[25] 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 Television film
1998 You Lucky Dog Calvin Bridges Television film
1998 The Wild Thornberrys[25] Gorilla Voice, episode: "Valley Girls"
1999 Vengeance Unlimited Judge Christopher Washington Episode: "Legalese"
1999 King's Pawn Cecil Pilot
1999 Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? Malcolm Avalon 2 episodes
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 Television film
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"
2001-2002 The Nightmare Room R.L. Stine 12 episodes
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 Television film
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 Prof. Floyd F. 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
2011 The Problem Solverz Go-Seeki Ninja Master / Ninja Master Head Voice, episode: "Hide and Seek Ninjaz"
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 Television film
2013 Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer Judge Parsons Television film
2013 Go, Bolivia, Go! Commissioner Morocco Television film
2015 Da Jammies Covington Voice, episode: "Cello"
Posthumous release

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1989 Splash Mountain Br'er Frog, Br'er Bear
1995 Disney's Animated Storybook: The Lion King[25] Narrator
2006 Biker Mice from Mars Cataclysm / Cat Commando
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". NBC Los Angeles. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Messer, Lesley (January 1, 2014). "'Fresh Prince' Star James Avery Died at 68". ABC News. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Griffin, Jade (February 13, 2014). "Memorial Tribute to Late Actor and UC San Diego Alumnus James Avery Set for March 1". UC San Diego News Center. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  5. ^ "James Avery Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  6. ^ Heigl, Alex (January 2, 2014). "Watch James Avery Talk About Voicing Shredder in the Ninja Turtles Cartoon". Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved November 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "James Avery". Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  8. ^ "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - James Avery as Philip Banks". TBS. Archived from the original on January 2, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  9. ^ "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: 1990-1996". People.com. June 26, 2000. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  10. ^ Vena, Jocelyn. "'Fresh Prince' Co-Stars Remember James Avery". MTV News. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  11. ^ "Uncle Phil: Fresh Prince Star James Avery Dies". Sky News. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  12. ^ a b France, Lisa Respers (January 1, 2014). "James Avery, star of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' dies at 68". CNN. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Actor James Avery Passes Away". Anime News Network. January 3, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  15. ^ "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor James Avery dies - BBC News". BBC.com. January 1, 2014. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  16. ^ "James Avery Dead". If You Blinked. January 3, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "Will Smith on James Avery Death: 'Every Young Man Needs an Uncle'". Hollywood Reporter. January 6, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  18. ^ "James Avery, star of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' dies at 68". CNN.com. January 2014.
  19. ^ "[Photos] 'Fresh Prince' Cast Reunite To Say Final Goodbyes To James Avery (Uncle Phil) | xoNECOLE". March 30, 2017. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017.
  20. ^ Gonzalez, Sandra (April 30, 2020). ""The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" cast gets emotional watching Uncle Phil's best moments". Cnn.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  21. ^ Carras, Christi (May 1, 2020). "Will Smith wipes tears while honoring James Avery during 'Fresh Prince' reunion". Detroitnews.com. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  22. ^ VanHoose, Benjamin (April 30, 2020). "Will Smith Reunites with Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cast: 'You Guys Are My Second Family'". People.com. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  23. ^ "Bennett's Creek Park to hold first 'Averyfest". suffolknewsherald.com. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  24. ^ "Averyfest celebrates Suffolk-born actor's career, life". Suffolk News-Herald. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c d e f "James Avery (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors.

External links[edit]