A week after the fact, Will Smith has spoken out about the death of former “Fresh Prince” co-star James Avery. Avery passed away on December 31, following complications from open heart surgery. He was 68. The actor played Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.

James Avery, Afrian Men Health Summit
Avery died at just 68 from heart surgery complications.

Smith just posted a tribute to his co-star on Facebook, writing, "Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery." Smith posted the message alongside a recent photo of the Fresh Prince cast, featuring himself, Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton), Karyn Parsons (Hillary) and Tatyana Ali (Ashley). It was taken about two years ago at a charity event, which reunited the cast. According to Smith’s message, the photo marks “the last time [he and Avery] were together.”

Will Smith, MTV VMA
Smith posted a touching message alongside a photo of the two together.

He added, "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."

On January 1st, Alfonso Ribeiro posted a message on his own Facebook, saying: “The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened 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.”

After “Fresh Prince”, Avery starred in a number of shows, including "Grey's Anatomy," "The Closer," "L.A. Law," and "The Jeffersons." He worked on three movies in 2013 and was on a much deserved break from work at the time of the tragedy.

Alfonso Ribeiro, After Earth Premiere
Co-star Alfonso Ribeiro was among the first to respond to the tragic news.