Will Smith gets emotional paying tribute to 'Fresh Prince' co-star who played Uncle Phil

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·2-min read

Watch: The cast of Fresh Prince pay tribute to Uncle Phil actor James Avery

Will Smith and his Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air co-stars paid an emotional tribute to the late James Avery during a reunion for the show.

Avery played Smith’s on-screen uncle Phil Banks. He died aged 68 in 2013 following complications from open heart surgery.

Avery’s former Fresh Prince co-stars paid tribute during the TV reunion which aired on HBO Max (UK release TBC), describing him as “the heart of the show” and breaking down in tears while a montage of his scenes played.

Seated in a reconstructed living room set from the series, the cast members shared their favourite memories of Avery, with Smith saying he “pushed me so hard”.

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR -- "Will Goes a Courtin'" Episode 6 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks  (Photo by Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR -- "Will Goes a Courtin'" Episode 6 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith, James Avery as Philip Banks (Photo by Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

He said: “His thing was, that I am in such a unique position and that responsibility, you must elevate your craft.

“You have to represent and you are paving a way and he just wouldn’t give me an inch.”

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Hollywood star Smith said one of his favourite memories of The Fresh Prince was the episode his on-screen father returns, only to again abandon him.

It featured a poignant moment between Smith and Avery. Smith, 52, told how he was desperate to impress Avery and ended up messing up his lines.

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While a furious Smith was berating himself, Avery told him to “get yourself together” and the next take was the one that appeared in the episode.

Smith revealed that during the hug they shared at the end of the scene, Avery whispered in his ear “now that’s acting”.

The cast wiped away tears while watching Avery on screen, before bursting into applause for the late actor.

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air reunion is streaming on HBO Max.