His publicist, Cynthia Snyder, said that Avery died on Tuesday at his home in Glendale, California due to complications from open heart surgery.

As well as starring in 141 episodes of the long-running sitcom, which also launched Will Smith’s career, he made appearances in Grey’s Anatomy and Star Trek: Enterprise. In September, Avery finished filming Wish I was Here with Zach Braff, which will premiere and the Sundance Film Festival at end of January.

Tributes from cast members and friends have flooded in. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played his son Carlton, tweeted: “I’m deeply saddened to say that James Avery has passed away. He was a second further to me. I will miss him greatly.”

Avery began his career in television as a scriptwriter for PBS, and quickly combined his writing skills with acting on screen. He also did voiceovers for a number of long-running programmes including The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Iron Man.

He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Barbara, his mother, Florence Avery, and his stepson, Kevin Waters, who are making plans for his memorial service.

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