James Avery

James Avery Headshot

Actor • Writer

Birth Date: November 27, 1945

Death Date: December 31, 2013

Birth Place: Pughsville, Virginia

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).

Credits

Things We Do For Love

Actor
Gordon
Show
2024

Roe Vs Wade

Actor
Show
2014

Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Actor
Movie
2014

Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer

Actor
Judge Parsons
Movie
2013

The Things We Do for Love

Actor
Gordon
Show
2011

Let the Game Begin

Actor
Mark Hanley
Movie
2010

Not Your Time

Actor
Haig
Movie
2010

The Brian McKnight Show

Guest
Show
2009

Unscripted

Guest
Show
2009

Eli StoneStream

Guest Star
Mason Andrews
Series
2008
60%

His Good Will

Actor
Mr. Cooper
Movie
2008

Who’s Your Caddy?Stream

Actor
Caddy Mack
Movie
2007
6%

Divine Intervention

Actor
Rev. Matthews
Movie
2007

Think Tank

Actor
Movie
2006

Restraining Order

Actor
Judge Sanderson
Movie
2006

The CloserStream

Actor
Dr. Crippen
Series
2005
83%

The CloserStream

Guest Star
Dr. Crippen
Series
2005
83%

Grey's AnatomyStream

Guest Star
Series
2005
84%

The History Makers: Courage

Host
Show
2005

The Third Wish

Actor
George
Movie
2005

Lethal Eviction

Actor
Gus Winter
Movie
2005

Joan of Arcadia

Guest Star
Series
2003
96%

All of UsStream

Guest Star
Series
2003

All About the Andersons

Guest Star
Show
2003

The 10th Annual Trumpet Awards

Host
Show
2002

Nancy Drew

Actor
Prof. Shifflin
Movie
2002

Wheelmen

Actor
Vice President
Movie
2002

RebaStream

Guest Star
Judge Samuel Bennett
Series
2001

Star Trek: EnterpriseStream

Guest Star
Gen. K'Vagh
Series
2001
56%

Philly

Guest Star
Show
2001

The Proud FamilyStream

Guest Voice
Crandall Smythe
Series
2001

Honeybee

Actor
Larry Dukes
Movie
2001

CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

GirlfriendsStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

Bull

Guest Star
Show
2000

Soul Food

Guest Star
Series
2000

Dancing in September

Actor
Mr. Warner
Movie
2000

Epoch

Actor
Dr. Solomon Holt
Movie
2000

Family Law

Guest Star
Series
1999

Judging Amy

Guest Star
Series
1999

Vengeance Unlimited

Guest Star
Series
1998
19%

One World

Guest Star
Series
1998

That '70s ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

For Your Love

Guest Star
Show
1998

Two Guys and a Girl

Guest Star
Series
1998
33%

La Colonia

Actor
Movie
1998

The Advanced Guard

Actor
Fred
Movie
1998

You Lucky Dog

Actor
Calvin Bridges
Movie
1998

La Invasión de los Aliens

Actor
Movie
1998

Dharma & Greg

Guest Star
Series
1997

Spirit Lost

Actor
Dr. Glidden
Movie
1997

Captain Simian & the Space Monkeys

Actor
Show
1996

The Jamie Foxx ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1996

Sparks

Actor
Alonzo Sparks
Show
1996

Magic and Mystery

Voice
Haroud Hazi Bin
Movie
1996

Murder OneStream

Guest Star
Series
1995
91%

In the HouseStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

Aladdin

Guest Voice
Series
1994

Death of A CheerleaderStream

Actor
Agent Gilwood
Movie
1994

NYPD BlueStream

Guest Star
Steve Pines
Series
1993
83%

American Experience

Actor
Charles Hamilton Houston
Movie
1993

Without Warning: Terror in the Towers

Actor
Fred Ferby
Movie
1993

Little Miss Millions

Actor
Agent Noah Hollander
Movie
1993

Simple Justice

Actor
Charles Hamilton Houston
Movie
1993

The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirStream

Actor
Philip Banks
Series
1990

To My Daughter

Actor
Movie
1990

FM

Actor
Quentin Lamoreaux
Show
1989

Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal

Actor
Earl
Movie
1989

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStream

Guest Star
Shredder
Series
1987

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStream

Guest Voice
Shredder
Series
1987

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStream

Voice
Shredder/Bank Robber #1
Series
1987

Jake and the Fatman

Guest Star
Series
1987

Beauty and the Beast

Guest Star
Winslow
Series
1987

Deadly Daphne's Revenge

Actor
Detective Wood
Movie
1987

Three for the Road

Actor
Clarence
Movie
1987

Rambo: The Force of Freedom

Voice
Turbo
Show
1986

The Hogan Family

Guest Star
Series
1986

ExtremitiesStream

Actor
Security Guard
Movie
1986
40%

Amazing StoriesStream

Actor
Series
1985

227Stream

Guest Star
Series
1985

Stoogemania

Actor
Gulch
Movie
1985

Going Bananas

Actor
Hank Gritz
Show
1984

NewhartStream

Guest Star
Series
1982

Simon & Simon

Guest Star
Huey
Series
1981

The Dukes of HazzardStream

Guest Star
Charlie
Series
1979

The JeffersonsStream

Guest Star
Coleman
Series
1975

News aboutJames Avery