James Avery, best known for his role as Uncle Phil on the hit series “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” died at a California hospital on Tuesday night after complications from open heart surgery.
The 68-year-old actor’s death was confirmed by his representatives in a statement to CNN, as well as by Avery’s co-star Alfonso Ribeiro in a Facebook post.
Ribeiro played the role of Avery’s son on the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but on his Facebook page he said that Avery was like a real father figure to him.
“The world has lost a truly special man,” Ribeiro wrote. “I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed.”
According to TMZ, Avery’s wife, Barbara, remained by his side for most of the night, but he died when she stepped out of the room for a brief moment.
Other “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” stars have taken to their social media accounts to express their sorrow.
“James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor,” Tatyana Ali wrote on Twitter. “We’re feeling his loss very deeply. He’ll always be apart (sic) of me #JamesAvery.” Ali played Ashley Banks in the series.
Tyra Banks, who had a recurring role on the show, also sent condolences via Twitter.
“Sending condolences to the family of James Avery, ‘Uncle Phil’ of the Fresh Prince. I’ll always remember how warm he was to me on set,” Banks tweeted.
“Happy New Year everyone,” Jada Pinkett Smith wrote on Facebook. “I was hoping to start the new year differently but we have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”
Will Smith’s latest tweets have been about his mother, although it is unclear who the last tweet may be about.
“Looking at a photograph and wishing you could re-live that moment over and over again,” Will tweeted around 10 a.m.
About two hours before that he tweeted, “I love my mom no matter what we go through, no matter how much we argue, because I know, at the end she’ll always be there.”
Meanwhile, a fake Will Smith Twitter account has been created asking fans to retweet a comment 300,000 times in an effort to push NBC to air a tribute episode in honor of James Avery.
Avery’s death comes shortly after “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” producer, Jeffrey Pollack, who died last month at the age of 54.