Last week, the world mourned the loss of James Avery, the man who played Judge Philip Banks in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The 68 year old died on New Years Eve after complications from a November 11th open heart surgery. On The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Avery’s role as Banks was depicted as a hard-working family man who achieved a high level of success. Banks and his family lived in a posh mansion in the affluent Bel Air community. Banks welcomed his nephew Will to move into their home from Philadelphia upon the request of his mother who wanted a better life for her son.
Almost 20 years after The Fresh Prince of Bel Air aired on television, it is still in syndication and the show’s viewers relate closely to its relevancy to dual social-economic statuses and the multiple layers of what exactly it means to be a black male.
The show’s male characters, Carlton Banks, Will Smith, Jazz, Uncle Phil, and Geoffrey the Butler all offer different interpretations of male blackness.
But which one is right? They all were!
When Will first came to live with his family in California, it took him a long while to adapt to the environment that he was living in because it wasn’t Philadelphia—heck it wasn’t even Crenshaw Avenue in LA! He was not used to living the lavish life and as he described in the original Fresh Prince theme song, he was ‘drinking orange juice from a champagne glass.’
With the help of his Uncle Phil, Will and Carlton grew up to be men. Shortly after Avery’s death last week, Alfonso Ribiero (Carlton Banks) tweeted: “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
On Sunday, Will Smith paid tribute to his television uncle by posting a picture of himself and cast members from the 90’s hit sitcom on Facebook with a caption that read: “Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace.
A talented actor and voiceover talent, James Avery also appeared on CSI, That 70’s Show and The Closer. He most recently appeared in Zach Braff’s new film, Wish I Was Here, which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.
What were some of your favorite Fresh Prince of Bel Air moments? Tweet them to @ScoopB and @TheSource with #WORDSWITHSCOOP.
-Brandon Robinson ( @Scoop B)