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Actor who starred as 'Uncle Phil' in Fresh Prince dies

THE actor who played the strict, legal eagle uncle of Will Smith in the hit US series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has died.

James Avery, the bulky character actor who laid down the law as 'Uncle Phil' Banks in the series, was found dead at his home. He was aged 68.

Mr Avery's publicist, Cynthia Snyder, said that Avery died on Tuesday in Glendale, California, following complications from open heart surgery.

Most recently, Mr Avery worked on Zach Braff's film, Wish I Was Here, which will premiere at the Sundance film festival.

Born James La Rue Avery in Virginia, Mr Avery was raised in Atlantic City.

After school, he served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1969 as a member of the US Navy.

When he returned home, Mr Avery moved to San Diego, where he wrote poetry and TV scripts for PBS, including the Emmy Award-winning production, Ameda Speaks: Poet James Avery.