Will Smith honours 'respectable' Fresh Prince co-star

Will Smith has written a tribute to his former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on the hit US comedy.

The cast of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air onstage at the BET Awards in 2005. Credit: Reuters

Addressing the 68-year-old actor's death on New Year's Eve publicly for the first time, Smith wrote on Facebook: "Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace."

He posted a 2011 picture of himself with the Fresh Prince cast, which he said showed the last time he and his TV uncle were together.

The show, which ran for six years and launched Smith's career, saw him playing wayward Will, a streetwise Philadelphia teen who moved in with his strait-laced Californian relatives to stay out of trouble.