It brings us great sadness to report this news on the first day of the New Year -- James Avery, the beloved actor who portrayed Uncle Phil on the hit '90s sitcom 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' has passed away at the age of 68. Avery, who passed away late last night in Los Angeles, was an actor known for his warmth, and continued to appear on many TV shows over the years after 'Fresh Prince' concluded. 

TMZ first reported Avery's death this afternoon, and it was confirmed by his 'Fresh Prince' co-star Alfonso Ribeiro in a Facebook post, which read:

The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say that James Avery has passed. Even though he played my father on TV, he was a wonderful father figure to me in life. He will be deeply missed.

Avery passed away following surgery for an undisclosed illness. Following his role on 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' with Will Smith and Ribeiro, he had continued to make appearances on several television shows, including 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'The Closer,' and 'Harry's Law.' He recently appeared in the TV movies 'Call Me Crazy: A Five Film,' 'Hunt for the Labyrinth Killer,' and 'Go, Bolivia, Go!'

In addition to his live-action work, Avery was the voice of Shredder on the popular 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' animated series and the voice of War Machine in the 1995 'Iron Man' cartoon.

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