While this year has certainly come in like a lion–currently hibernating in my NYC apartment while my thermostat reads -8° with snow on my window ledge–its kicking our ass in a whole other way–*cough*cough*–one being the too soon demise of James Avery aka Uncle Phil. He was the uncle we secretly wished for (who doesn’t fantasize about having a rich uncle to put you up in Bev Hills?) and feared. But above all admired weekly from 1990 to 1996.
After doing some digging it turns out he wasn’t just Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Like, did you know that he played the voice of Shredder on my all-time favorite childhood cartoon, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” As well as did voice over work for the animated movie “The Prince of Egypt” and “Transformer” movie franchises. James Avery had a red carpet long list of roles that include a recurring role on “The Young & The Restless” and a heartbreaking (isn’t it always) guest spot on “Grey’s Anatomy.” The list goes on and on.
Yet, no matter how many roles he snagged, he will always be remembered as Uncle Phil. So, I’ve dedicated this Flashback Friday to the last time the “Fresh Prince”cast reunited (the two Aunt Vivs and Geoffrey are missing) in 2011 to support
Hilary Karyn Parson’s Sweet Blackberry non profit that aims to bring little known African-American stories to children.
In 2011, Karyn told Daddy Phil she needed $300…just playing, a little “Fresh Prince” humor. Parsons teamed up with Charity Buzz to auction off a lunch date with the Fresh Prince cast to benefit Sweet Blackberry. The victor was co-founder of FireFox and his pal, a designer for Facebook (lucky bastards). Someone snapped a pic, and as they say, the rest is fan excitement history. Will Smith posted the pic on his Facebook page with this caption: Got the Holiday season started right with a “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” reunion…there’s nothin’ like spending Holidays with fam!”
Original Aunt Viv actress Janet Hubbard shared a statement with TheGrio.com about the passing of her TV husband and one of her favorite scenes with Avery.
Acting with James was like a great doubles match! He was one of the best actors I have worked with in my many years. He was like a big strong boulder, that could either crush you or shield you. He was first and foremost an actor, classically trained, climbed that ladder step by step, role by role, to become one of the most powerful TV dads that had ever been created. My heart goes out to Barbara his real wife and family and I ask that you respect her place, as his real wife with regards to her husband with request for statements from me who simply but proudly played his TV wife Vivian Banks. RIP James, all the world is a stage, and we are all merely players in this production called LIFE.
Tatyana Ali took to her Facebook page to also take advantage of Flashback Friday. She posted some throwback pics of her and Avery shooting their final episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
And this message for her TV dad:
I spent last night going through photos. I found these two from our final Friday night taping of Fresh Prince. We had a cake fight after shedding tears. People don’t really understand that we knew how special our time together was. It wasn’t special because of popularity or success, but because we were all together, sharing it. It’s like it was all meant to be, and we could feel it…James was a philosopher king. He taught me to love history and poetry. He taught me that being an artist is one of the noblist professions. He gave me black baby dolls every Christmas. He used to joke that I’d visit him in the old actors age home when I got older. Every end is a beginning. I know James is at peace.
Thanks everyone for all your kind words and thoughts. It means a lot to his family and friends.
A Poem Of Friendship by Nikki Giovanni
We are not lovers
because of the love
but the love
We are not friends
because of the laughs
but the tears
I don’t want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
I will never miss you
because of what we do
but what we are
R.I.P big guy.