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James Avery, a.k.a. Uncle Phil of 'Fresh Prince,' pushing for film version


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TORONTO - Will Smith could one day be dusting off his fly Fresh Prince duds, if James Avery has his way.

Avery — who co-starred with Smith on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," which will air on Canada's new Comedy Gold channel that launches Monday — wants to do a film version.

"'Fresh Prince, the Movie.' I've been pushing for it for years," said Avery, who played lovable judge Uncle Phil, in a recent telephone interview from Los Angeles.

"I'm not (kidding)!" he added. "'Fresh Prince, the Movie.' They did 'Brady Bunch,' the movie, and I was in that."

"Fresh Prince" debuted in September 1990 with Smith playing a smooth-talking, inner-city teen — from "West Philadelphia, born and raised," as the catchy rap theme song went — who moves in with his rich uncle (Avery) and his family for a better life in Los Angeles.

Avery, 61, is eager to celebrate the 20th anniversary with some sort of reunion special.

"I could use the money," he said jokingly, adding he doesn't know if anything is planned. "It would be nice though."

Avery is confident there would be a huge appetite for a new "Fresh Prince" project, as he constantly hears from viewers about its wholesome appeal.

"When I talk to people nowadays they say it's one of the few shows that the family could watch together," said the Atlantic City, N.J., native, who voices Silverbolt in the upcoming "Transformers 3" film.

"A lot of parents say that they liked it because the parents were in charge; the kids never got away with anything."

Comedy Gold is dedicated to programming from the '70s to the '90s, a time when sitcoms contained more substance than they do today, said Avery.

Seminal hits such as "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Murphy Brown" — all of which will air on Comedy Gold — tackled meaty subjects, unlike some of their contemporary counterparts, he opined.

"Nowadays, most sitcoms are about, to put it crudely, gettin' some or giving it up, you know?" he said, adding viewers had more choice back then.

"There were so many shows where an actor could work and make a good living.... Nowadays, they're cop shows or lawyer shows. Cops or lawyers or doctors, the big three, you know?"

When Avery signed on to "Fresh Prince," he didn't foresee the pop-culture impact that it would have.

He didn't even know of Smith or his background as rapper Fresh Prince.

"My agent called me and told me that I had an audition for a pilot for this rap guy, you know, and I said, 'Rap who? What's his name?' And they said 'Fresh Prince.'

"I was like, 'Fresh what? Who? What is this?'"

Eventually, Avery couldn't walk down the street without hearing fans reciting words to the theme song composed by Quincy Jones, or without hearing someone shouting "Uncle Phil!"

"They were calling me and recognizing me on the freeway at 80 miles an hour and, you know, almost getting me killed," he said.

"I'm like, 'OK, yeah, yeah, I'm Uncle Phil, OK! Drive!'"

Many people also imitated the geeky dance that was the trademark of Alfonso Ribeiro's straight-laced character, Carlton.

"Poor Alfonso," Avery said, laughing again. "It used to piss him off so bad."

Avery said he and the cast are all still close. In fact, Avery and Smith's mothers are best friends.

Avery also recently went to Smith's home to celebrate the 12th birthday of his son, Jaden, who is following in his father's film footsteps with the recent starring role in "The Karate Kid."

So just what does one give to an in-demand young actor who seemingly has it all, including megastar parents (Jada Pinkett Smith is his mom)?

"I give him nothing," Avery said with a guffaw. "I give him kudos: 'Happy birthday.' I mean, what else could you give him?

"What could you give him? You know, 'Happy birthday, have many more. Love you. Buh bye.'"


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Good article! Thanx for posting. One thing is for sure tho'....NO NEED FOR A MOVIE. As much as a respect James Avery, that's just an awful idea. A reunion show would be great tho.' To see the cast joking, maybe doing some scripted stuff, telling stories, showing clips, bloopers, etc. I think alot of people would love that.

If it wouldn't tarnish the legacy of the show, it would be funny to see a special where they have half of the cast dealing with "Will's son" being played by Jaden...lol.

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