For all of his critical and commercial success as an actor, Will Smith says he owes a great debt of gratitude to his TV uncle, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star James Avery, who passed away last week at the age of 68.

The two-time Oscar nominee, 45, posted a heartfelt message on Facebook on January 5 — alongside a photo a of himself, James, and a few other Fresh Prince cast members, in what Will says is the last time he and James were together.

"Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living, and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," Will writes in the caption. "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in peace."

Will's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — who actually met her future husband when she auditioned for the Fresh Prince role that ultimately went to Nia Long — also posted a remembrance to Facebook, writing hers on on January 1: "I was hoping to start the new year differently, but we have lost yet another friend. James Avery, who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince, has passed. Our condolences to Aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife), and all those who loved him."

Will and James co-starred in 147 episodes of the NBC hit sitcom between 1990 and 1996.


Dan Clarendon is an assistant editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow him on Twitter and Google+!