Will Smith pays emotional tribute to late co-star James Avery during ‘Fresh Prince’ reunion

Avery, who played Uncle Phil in the hit sitcom, died in 2013

Will Smith has paid tribute to his late co-star James Avery during the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air reunion.

The unscripted one-off special, marking 30 years since the popular sitcom’s debut, aired yesterday (November 19) on HBO Max. It reunited Smith, who played Philadelphia teen Will on the show, with original cast members Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

While there were plenty of takeaways from the reunion, one of the biggest talking points came when Smith recalled working with Avery, who played his Uncle, Phillip Banks.


The Bad Boys actor became visibly tearful as he revisited a particular scene from the 90s show which saw Will break down in tears and exclaim “why doesn’t he want me?” after his father walked out on him again – with Phil then hugging him.

“I remember in one of my favourite and most famous scenes from – the father episode – James Avery was this six-foot-four, 300-pound stage-trained Shakespearean beast and I’m the little rapper from Philly under him and I wanted him to think I was good,” Smith said during the reunion.

“I wanted him to be proud of me… we come to that scene and I was like, ‘I want to deliver this scene so bad’… I flubbed my line on the take and I messed it up in front of the audience and my mind snapped and I’m like, ‘Ahhhh. Ahhh!’

Smith went on to reveal that Avery then took charge of the situation, pointing to his eyes and saying: “Hey, right here… use me. Get yourself together” before adding, “Action!”

Explaining that it was the episode’s final scene, Smith continued: “And I fall into his arms at the end of the scene, he’s holding me and he’s holding me. And the shot pans off. And he whispered into my ear: ‘Now that’s acting’.”


Smith revealed that he burst into tears as the scene ended, adding: “It’s like people don’t even know when they’re shaping you and forming you and crafting you. He knew.”

Avery died in 2013 at the age of 68 due to complications following open-heart surgery.

Back in September, Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff filmed a house tour of the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air mansion.

Smith released the video on his YouTube channel following the announcement that the Los Angeles home would be going up on Airbnb for fans to rent out.

In the official Airbnb listing, Smith wrote: “It’s your crib for the night, so feel free to act like you own the place.”