Most of the reaction posts I saw to James Avery’s death included that profoundly upsetting scene from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air where Avery’s character, Uncle Phil, comforts a young, grieving Will Smith.
It might seem a little disingenuous to view one man’s career through the lens of another, more famous actor. Should we let Will Smith’s reaction or that scene (which is arguably more of a centerpiece for Smith) define the man? If you say to a room full of people “James Avery died,” you might get a chorus of “who?” If you say “Uncle Phil died,” you’re certain to get at least a few heartfelt and sorrowful reactions. That character, that Uncle meant something to us. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to hope that the Uncle Phil we saw and loved on screen resembled the man himself. That’s what Will Smith’s brief tribute here affirms. Is it true? How can we know? We didn’t know James Avery, we knew Uncle Phil. But it’s comforting to believe.