The cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air have paid tribute to James Avery at their highly-anticipated reunion.
The beloved actor, who played Uncle Phil for six seasons of the show, sadly passed away back in 2013.
The cast reunited on Wednesday for a HBO Max special, with Will Smith remembering the star and opening up on the close relationship they had.
Will said: “He pushed me so hard. His thing was that I am in such a unique position and that responsibility, you must elevate your craft. You have to represent and you are paving a way, and he just wouldn’t give me an inch.”
— Will Smith (@RealWillSmithFP) November 19, 2020
“I remember in one of my favourite and most famous scenes from Fresh Prince – the father episode,” he recalled, referring to season 4’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse’, where Will’s biological father re-emerges after being absent for 14 years of his life.
“James Avery was this 6’4”, 300-pound stage-trained Shakespearean beast and I’m the little rapper from Philly under him and I wanted him to think I was good.
“I wanted him to be proud of me, so the episode comes and we come to that scene and I was like… I want to deliver this scene so bad.”
“If you remember, in front of the audience, I flubbed my line on the take and I messed it up in front of the audience and my mind snapped and I’m like, ‘Ahhhh!’
“James says, ‘Hey! Right here!’ He was like, ‘Use me!’ And he says, ‘Get yourself together,’ and I get it together and he says, ‘Action.'”
Through tears, Will recalled: “With the scene that we do, it’s the scene that ends being in the episode. And I fall into his arms at the end of scene, he’s holding me and he’s holding me. He whispered into my ear, ‘Now that’s acting.'”
“And it’s like people don’t even know when they’re shaping you and forming you and crafting you. He knew.”
Tatyana Ali, who played Ashley, added: “There are some people that plant seeds. That’s what they do. And they do it to anyone they come across.”
The cast were left moved to tears as they watched some of James’ most memorable moments on the show, including a line in which he said: “Death is a natural part of life.”
Will said: “I think what happens on family shows like this, it’s one of those things you cannot buy or fake chemistry. It’s just the way that we all came together was very special.”
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