Several stars have paid tribute to 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' actor James Avery after he passed away.

The 65-year-old star, who played Uncle Phil in the popular 1990s US sitcom, died in hospital in Los Angeles, California, on Tuesday (31.12.13) aged 68 from complications following open heart surgery.

James' co-star Alfonso Ribeiro, who portrayed his on-screen son Carlton Banks in the show, took to his Facebook page to break the news and praised the late actor for being a ''wonderful father figure'' to him.

He wrote: ''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.''

While Will Smith, who played Will, the main character in 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air', is yet to comment publically on the devastating news, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith took to her Facebook page to pay tribute to the actor.

She wrote: ''Happy New Year everyone! 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.

''Rest in peace James.''

James - who also starred in 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Star Trek' - leaves behind wife Barbara, who is said to have been visiting her husband at the hospital in Glendale when he died, but she had left the room for a short period only to return later to hear he had passed away.

Tatyana Ali, who played James' on-screen daughter Ashley Banks in 'The Fresh Prince', also paid tribute to the late star for being her ''protector''.

She wrote on Twitter: ''James was my teacher my protector & the most magnificent actor. We're feeling his loss very deeply. He'll always be apart of me #JamesAvery (sic)''