James Avery, the genial actor who played the father on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” has died at age 65. The cause, reports TMZ and other outlets, was complications from open heart surgery. He played Philip Banks, the wealthy uncle of Will Smith, on the hit show, for seven seasons from 1990 to 1996. After that Avery never stopped working on TV. He was about as continuous of a presence as he could be. I met him several times at various events and he was just the nicest guy, very articulate and funny. Alfonso Ribero, who played his son on “Fresh Prince,” has already posted something on Facebook. I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the whole cast soon. RIP.
PS Avery’s death comes one week after the unexpected death of “Fresh Prince” producer and co-creator Jeffrey Pollack at age 54.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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