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Fresh Prince cast break down as they pay tribute to James Avery

Will Smith and his Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air co-stars were left wiping away tears after they paid an emotional tribute to the late James Avery.

Avery played Smith’s on-screen uncle Phil Banks in the beloved sitcom. He died aged 68 in 2013 following complications from open heart surgery.

The cast of the series paid tribute to the late actor during the HBO Max reunion, describing him as ‘the heart of the show’ and broke down while a montage of his scenes played.

Seated in a reconstructed living room set from the series, the stars shared their favourite memories of Avery, with Smith saying he ‘pushed me so hard’.

‘His thing was, that I am in such a unique position and that responsibility, you must elevate your craft,’ Smith recalled.

‘You have to represent and you are paving a way and he just wouldn’t give me an inch.’

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Hollywood star Smith said one of his favourite memories of The Fresh Prince was the episode his on-screen father returns, only to again abandon him.

It featured a poignant moment between Smith and Avery. Smith, 52, told how he was desperate to impress Avery and ended up messing up his lines.

While a furious Smith was berating himself, Avery told him to ‘get yourself together’ and the next take was the one that appeared in the episode.

Smith revealed that during the hug they shared at the end of the scene, Avery whispered in his ear ‘now that’s acting’.

Meanwhile, Ashley star Tatyana Ali said of Avery: ‘He was my teacher. I learned what it means to be an artist from him.’

Daphne Maxwell Reid, who portrayed Aunt Viv, added: ‘We knew that he knew the answers or could guide folks to the answers.’

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air reunion is streaming on HBO Max.

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