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James L. Avery

James L. Avery

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Also Known As: James Avery Died:
Born: November 27, 1948 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA Profession: actor, voice actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Burly African-American character player of TV with a richly resonant voice. Avery has been a familiar face since the mid-1980s as a frequent TV guest star usually playing a cop, judge or clergyman. He had recurring roles on shows as diverse as "L.A. Law", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Amen". Avery is best known as Phillip Banks, the uncle of Will Smith on the hit sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96). His character was a proud self-made success story who skillfully walks the delicate line between being a positive role model as a strong Black father figure and the butt of humor as a pompous windbag. After the show's demise, Avery once again portrayed a patriarch, this time as the father in a family of lawyers who served an inner-city community on the UPN sitcom "Sparks" (1996-98). Avery honed his acting skills as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland before segueing to commercials and TV. He worked on several cartoons ("Going Bananas"; "Hulk Hogan's Rock'N'Wrestling"; "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") before landing a stint as a primetime series regular on the sitcom "FM". Even here his voice was an integral part of his role as he played a radio personality who hosted two...

Burly African-American character player of TV with a richly resonant voice. Avery has been a familiar face since the mid-1980s as a frequent TV guest star usually playing a cop, judge or clergyman. He had recurring roles on shows as diverse as "L.A. Law", "Beauty and the Beast", and "Amen". Avery is best known as Phillip Banks, the uncle of Will Smith on the hit sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96). His character was a proud self-made success story who skillfully walks the delicate line between being a positive role model as a strong Black father figure and the butt of humor as a pompous windbag. After the show's demise, Avery once again portrayed a patriarch, this time as the father in a family of lawyers who served an inner-city community on the UPN sitcom "Sparks" (1996-98). Avery honed his acting skills as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland before segueing to commercials and TV. He worked on several cartoons ("Going Bananas"; "Hulk Hogan's Rock'N'Wrestling"; "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") before landing a stint as a primetime series regular on the sitcom "FM". Even here his voice was an integral part of his role as he played a radio personality who hosted two shows--one as a polished classical host and the other as a funky reggae deejay. Avery has also had small roles in several features beginning with "The Stunt Man" (1980) and continuing with films including "Three for the Road" (1987) and "License to Drive" (1988). He worked steadily as a character actor in both film and television after the end of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," including a recurring role as a doctor in the police procedural "The Closer" (TNT 2005-2012). James L. Avery died of complications from open-heart surgery on December 31, 2013, shortly after completing work on Zach Braff's feature "Wish I Was Here" (2014).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Stars In Shorts (2012)
2.
3.
 Who's Your Caddy? (2007) Caddy Mack
4.
 Third Wish, The (2007)
5.
 Hair Show (2004) Seymour Gold
6.
 Raise Your Voice (2004) Mr. Gantry
7.
 Nancy Drew (2002) Professor Shifflin
8.
 Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) Eldon
9.
 Epoch (2001) Dr Solomon Holt
10.
 Dancing in September (2000) Mr Warner
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Attended high school in his native Atlantic City, New Jersey
:
Enlisted in the Navy upon graduation
1968:
Served in Vietnam
:
Settled in San Diego
:
Awarded scholarship to the University of California at San Diego, where he intended to study philosophy and English literature
:
Tried out for a school play on the suggestion of an English teacher
:
Wrote poetry and TV scripts for public TV
:
After graduating from college, awarded a fellowship to study in London
:
Moved to Oregon; worked with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland
:
Moved to L.A.
1980:
Feature debut, "The Stunt Man"
1984:
TV series debut, a voice on the animated children's series "Going Bananas"
:
Provided the voice of Junkyard Dog for "Hulk Hogan's Rock'N' Wrestling" cartoon series
:
Provided a voice for "Scooby's Mystery Funhouse"
1985:
TV miniseries debut, "James A. Michener's 'Space'"
1985:
TV-movie debut, "Kicks"
1986:
Provided a voice for the animated "Rambo" series
1987:
Returned to features for his second screen credit, "Three for the Road"
:
Voiced the villainous Shredder on the popular syndicated cartoon series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"
1988:
Played a recurring role on the CBS fantasy romance series, "Beauty and the Beast"
:
Played the recurring role of Reverend Crawford on the NBC sitcom, "Amen"
:
Played a recurring role on the NBC drama series, "L.A. Law"
:
Debut as a live-action TV series regular, "FM", an NBC sitcom in which he played the role of Quentin Lamoreaux
:
Cast as Phillip Banks, a regular on the popular NBC sitcom, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
1991:
Reprised the role of Shredder for the animated special, "Planet of the Turtleoids"
1991:
Provided the voice of Midnight Rider for the failed John Travolta rock'n'roll vehicle, "Shout"
1994:
Did narration for "Midnight Ramble", a documentary special on PBS's "The American Experience" about the African-American independent film movement between 1910 and 1940
:
Starred as patriarch of a family of lawyers on the UPN sitcom "Sparks"
1998:
Hosted the PBS series "Going Places"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of California at San Diego: San Diego , California -
University of California at San Diego: San Diego , California -
Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts: -

Notes

"'He's a hard-working, goal-oriented person who came from humble roots into excellence and accomplishment,' says James Avery of Philip Banks, the successful Harvard-educated attorney he portrays. 'And while he knows a lot of things in life are unfair, he also believes that with enough hard work and clear focus one can achieve anything.'

"Avery says his television character resembles his own personality. 'I come from poor roots and used to say to my mother how unfair it was that blacks need to be 10 times better than everyone elso to make it. She would say, 'Stop whining and be 10 times better.' That's Phillip's outlook as well.'" --From James Avery's "NBC Biography"

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Barbara Avery. Dean of students. Born c. 1954; married c. 1989; worked at Loyola Marymount University.

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