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Welcome Back Plain Jane… And Other Neighbours Characters I Wish Would Make A comeback

 

I was super excited when I heard that Annie Jones would be returning to Neighbours to reprise her role as ‘Plain Jane, Superbrain,’ Jane Harris. Jane was one of my favourite characters in the Aussie soap and a reminder of when Neighbours was in it’s heyday, on BBC1 and on twice a day. I thought Jane and Mike Young were very sweet together, couldn’t understand why she’d agreed to marry Des Clark, and hoped that she’d return to Erinsborough when she left Ramsay Street to go to England to take care of her grandmother, Mrs. Mangel. And Jane did indeed return – twenty nine years later! Gone were the glamorous looks and sense of style that made her the Lassiter’s Girl, and instead we found an eccentric, younger version of Nell Mangel.

I’m very glad that Jane is slowly reverting back to her stylish ways but sorry that Annie Jones’ trip back to Erinsborough will be a very brief one. Hopefully she’ll be back. But in the meanwhile it got me thinking about former Neighbours’ characters who I would love to see back in the Street again.

1. SCOTT AND CHARLENE

I think it goes without saying that we would all absolutely without a shadow of a doubt want the eternal king and queen of Ramsay Street to return, as the most famous cul-de-sac in the world has never been the same since Scott and Charlene left for a new life in Brisbane. Even though it was great meeting their kids, Daniel and Maddie, we would still love for Mr. and Mrs. Robinson to at the very least make a flying visit. It occurred to me the other day that there’s a whole new younger generation of Neighbours fans who’ll never know just how iconic Scott and Charlene were, so perhaps it’s time the characters came back but seeing as these are two roles that can NEVER be recast, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll never see Scott and Charlene back on the Street as I can’t see Ms. Minogue or Mr. Donovan in any hurry to return to Erinsborough.

2.THE ALESSI TWINS

If my memory serves me right, I think there have been four sets of twins who have appeared in the soap including the current set of twins, the Tanarkas. But I think Caroline and Christina Alessi were probably the only twins on Ramsay Street to have been played by real-life twins Gayle and Gillian Blakeney. The Blakeneys bring back memories of Neighbours and life in general in the early 90’s. Twin -mania really took off as Gayle and Gillian seemed to be on every TV show and every magazine cover at the time – they even had a pop career! The twins had some very memorable storylines on the show including Christina’s kidnapping and Caroline’s dalliance with her brother-in-law, Paul. In fact as Paul is still in the show, I’m sure writers could find a way to reunite Christina with her ex-husband. But the question is would Gayle and Gillian who have spent more than two decades living in California want to return to Ramsay Street to reprise their famous roles?

3. GAIL ROBINSON

Well if we bring back the third Mrs. Robinson, how about we also bring back the second one, Gail? Out of all of Paul’s wives, Gail, played by Fiona Corke was most definitely my favourite and in my opinion the only one of Paul’s wives who could handle him – but in the end she got tired of Paul’s workaholic ways and left him while heavily pregnant with their triplets. Since then, Gail has made a couple of brief returns to Ramsay Street and we’ve even met the triplets, but I would so love Gail to make a more long-term return to Ramsay Street. Someone needs to sort that Paul out!

4. SHANE RAMSAY

It may be called Ramsay Street but… There are no more Ramsays left! So what better than to bring back one of the members of the original Ramsay family as well as one of the show’s earliest characters, Shane Ramsay? It’s unlikely that Peter O’Brien who played Shane would ever return to the soap, which is a Shane, I mean shame, because Shane did have some very good storylines including Des-Daphne-Shane love triangle. Even though Des Clarke won her heart in the end, it was clear that Shane would always love Daphne and viewers couldn’t help but feel a little broken hearted for him.

5. HENRY RAMSAY

I don’t know who couldn’t love Henry Ramsay. Before he appeared on screen, viewers were led to believe that Madge’s son was a bit of a bad apple but once he arrived, it was obvious that Henry had a heart of gold. He loved his family and friends and would do anything for anyone. A practical joker whose hair-brain schemes often went wrong, Henry provided much of the show’s lighthearted moments. Unfortunately his love life was a bit of a disaster zone – but that was until he captured the heart of his beloved Bronnie. Ramsay Street was a much quieter place when Henry left to start a new life in New Zealand. When Brad Willis first appeared on the Street in the 90’s, my sister and I labelled him the new Henry – but the truth is there’s only ever been one Henry Ramsay. If only we could find a way to get Craig MacLachlan to play Henry again…

6. THE WILLIS FAMILY

When the Kennedys arrived in Ramsay Street, I didn’t think I would ever get used to them as I missed my favourite family the Willises too much. But more than twenty years later I can honestly say I love the Kennedys – who would have thought they’d still be here now – but I do still miss the Willises. Despite having their ups and downs, they tried not to take life seriously and were an incredibly loving family. Neighbours may have brought back the Willis family five years ago of which Therese and Piper still remain, but I love the nineties incarnation which consisted of Pam and Doug and their four kids, Adam, Gaby, Brad and Cody. Sadly Doug and Cody have been killed off but it would be awesome to see the remaining Willises make a comeback.

7. GLEN DONNELLY

I think that Paul Robinson was so traumatized by the knowledge that he had a half-sibling, that he’s done his best to permanently eradicate all thoughts of his dad’s illegitimate son from his mind. When was the last time anyone heard Paul mention his half-brother Glen? True, the two hated each other so much that it’s unlikely that they’re on each other’s Christmas card lists, but anyone who didn’t watch Neighbours in the early nineties would be forgiven for not knowing that Scott isn’t Paul’s only brother. Glen’s exit from the show was under very tragic circumstances as a fall from the Lassiter’s roof meant that he was never going to be able to walk again. His bid to file a lawsuit against Paul turned very bitter and led to Paul having a nervous breakdown. In the end Glen felt that his only option was to leave Erinsborough with the help of a friend, leaving his fiancée Gaby Willis devastated.As Paul is still in the show I think it would be brilliant if they brought Glen back to really shake things up for his dastardly half-brother.

8. DES CLARKE

Ramsay Street hasn’t been the same since ‘Clarkey’ left – the original occupant of what is now the Kennedy house. Des was in the show from the very first episode til the early nineties when he left with his young son Jamie to start a new life in Perth. Des managed to pack in a lot during his time on the show, including finding out he had a sister, being reunited with his long-lost father, and his very unlikely romance with Jane Harris. But the storyline we all remember Des for was the loss of his beloved wife Daphne after a fatal car accident. I still remember Des feeling crushed at Madge and Harold’s wedding as he struggled to come to terms with Daphne’s death. It was wonderful to see Paul Keane reprise his role as Des for the show’s thirtieth anniversary episodes but the only downside is that it just wasn’t long enough. Come back Clarkey!

9. SUSAN COLE

We have Paul, and we also have the lovely Clive Gibbons, two characters from the early days of Neighbours. Now wouldn’t it be great to throw Susan Cole into the mix? For those of you whose minds need refreshing, Susan was the former mistress of Madge Ramsay’s ex-husband Fred, and the mother of his child, Sam- remember the baby Charlene claimed was hers but was in fact her half brother? Yep, it does sound very Bold and the Beautiful, but it was definitely Neighbours! Susan began a relationship with Paul Robinson (as every woman naturally does!) while sharing a house with Clive, not realising that he was secretly in love with her. Clive did eventually get the girl but sadly for him the girl was still in love with Paul despite having agreed to marry Clive. Susan left Erinsborough having ended her engagement to a now heartbroken Clive. It would be great for her to reappear on the Street and stir things up for Paul and Clive… but where would that leave Sheila?

10. MATT ROBINSON

Reading this list of former Neighbours’ characters who I would love to see return, I’ve just realised how many of them are connected to Paul Robinson in some way. Not that that should be a surprise – after all he’s been in the show longer than anyone else despite a long absence from the show in the nineties. So we’ll throw in another Robinson – Matt Robinson, the son of Paul’s cousin Hilary. Matt, played by Ashley Paske, was the street’s resident heart-throb back then. Matt worked hard to forge a bond with his birth mother, Hilary, as well as to overcome his battle with dyslexia, but it was his breakup with Gemma Ramsay that led to him leaving Erinsborough for good. Hilary does make the odd appearance from time to time so it would be fantastic if we see Matt with her – even though viewers understand that mother and son have had a falling out.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2018 in TV Shows

 

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Don’t You Know That The Time Has Arrived? NKOTB’s Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

 

Don’t be alarmed if you see an overly ecstatic woman wearing a smiley face t-shirt and a peace symbol medallion doing cartwheels down the street. Chances are she’s a Blockhead and she’s got a great reason for being super thrilled!

 

Us Blockheads knew that we’d be loving New Kids On The Block forever but on Thursday we were prouder than ever as the Boston supergroup were honoured with the 2,530th star on Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of thousands of screaming, banner-carrying fans who were out in full force to share this very momentous occasion with their idols. I have no idea why it took so long but it was well worth the wait. It was an emotional moment for band members, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood as they received this prestigious tribute – a poignant reminder that they will live on in entertainment history. And it was undoubtedly an equally emotional moment for the fans as we saw just how far they’d come from their humble beginnings to become one of the most famous musical acts ever. No doubt thoughts turned to the first time we ever saw them or heard one of their songs. For some of us, they were our first crush, but for all the fans, they have continued to live on in our hearts – and maybe even still have their posters occupying  wall space! These five special guys played a part during our childhoods and teenage years, and I’m delighted that all these years later, they’re still here and they’ve been given the reward they so richly deserve.

THE CEREMONY

“Fans have been asking for quite a while now when the New Kids on The Block were going to get their star. We want to thank them for “Hangin’ Tough” for waiting patiently to hear the announcement of their favorite boy band star ceremony.” Ana Martinez, producer of the Walk of Fame ceremonies

 

Even though I had to make do with watching the ceremony from the comfort of my own home – I so wish I could have been there – I could tell that the atmosphere in Hollywood Boulevard was electric. Fans who have been on this three decade long ride with the New Kids were screaming their heads off and waving banners as though they were still fifteen (I’m surprised no one fainted!) Donnie got very emotional, comedian and friend to the New Kids, Arsenio Hall, paid tribute to the band – and our favourite boys from Boston finally got their star.

 

Donnie, Danny, Jordan, Jon and Joey looked super hot – and it had nothing to do with the LA sun – as they stepped up to the podium in co-ordinating suits complete with pink ribbons pinned to their lapels for breast cancer awareness. Even though they smiled and waved to the crowd as speeches were being made, it was evident that they were totally overwhelmed. I suppose that’s the feeling you get when you know you’ve been immortalized forever.

Leron Gubler, president and CEO of Hollywood Chamber of commerce was the first to welcome the band onto the podium, but before he did, he took a little time to remind the crowd of NKOTB’s numerous achievements and accomplishments, including their work for charity, especially for breast cancer awareness, hence the pink bows.

 

A very excited bunch of New Kids appeared which drove the crowd wild – and they were very closely followed by Arsenio Hall who has been a supporter of the band from the very beginning. He shared his memories with the fans and explained why the world loved the band so much before it was the turn of Los Angeles City Council’s Mitch O’Farrell to say a few words, who then presented the band with their individual certificates of honour.

It was then time for the band to speak.

 

It was Donnie who gave the speech and he revealed that for the first time ever, none of the band wanted to speak because they were so completely overwhelmed and blown away by the day’s events. However I’m not surprised that it was Donnie who got to step up to the mic because he always came across the leader of the group, and the hinge that held them all together. He’s also known for having a way with words which is why my sister and I nicknamed him Words-Of-Wisdom Donnie. And after the speech he delivered, he’s definitely worthy of the name. He talked about the band’s hard work and aspirations from the early days; gave thanks to the band’s family and friends, in particular their children; mentioned all those who were instrumental in their success from the beginning, and remembered those who were no longer with them. Poor Donnie got a little emotional and teary, and I’m sure there wasn’t a Blockhead present who didn’t want to rush up onto the stage and give him a big hug.

 

And talking of hugs, I thought the big group hug the others gave Donnie after he’d delivered his speech was so sweet. I love the true friendship that the five of them share. They have a rapport that I don’t see with other members of similar bands. Yes they’ve had their ups and downs over the years, and we all know that there were times when they couldn’t stand to be in the same room. But they’ve grown up and worked out their differences. Whereas most bands are seriously manufactured and thrown together by a record company, the New Kids – with the exception of Joe – all knew each other before they joined the band, so there’s definitely a bond there. Donnie summed up the closeness between the five at the ceremony:

‘We’ve been together for pretty much 30 years. We’ve been friends for longer. We’ve been through the droughts of droughts, the highs of highs. We’ve been through things that most people could never imagine… I think I speak for all of us in saying that I would not have wanted to spend one moment of the last 33 years doing this with anyone besides this team right here. We say it often but we are brothers. And it’s real.”’

THE STORY SO FAR:

 

The New Kids formed in 1984 in Boston, Massachusetts when producer Maurice Starr – famous for discovering New Edition – put together brothers Jonathan and Jordan plus their high school friends, Donnie and Danny. Joey completed the line-up and the rest is history. New Kids On The Block superseded the success of New Edition by far, and became more famous than anyone could ever have imagined. They are considered to be the blueprint for boy bands as we know them today, though in my opinion the New Kids set the bar staggeringly high because over the years, boy bands may have come and gone but there’s only ever been one for me… and all my fellow Blockheads know what I’m talking about!

 

But along with the highs came the lows, and the New Kids have experienced more ups and downs than a lift in a tower block. Their meteoric rise to fame; the mass hysteria that had not been witnessed since the days of The Osmonds; their eventual decline and virtual disappearance have all been well-documented. They took a break at the end of 1991, and after a brief comeback in 1994 – complete with abridged name and new image – NKOTB disbanded, seemingly for good, much to the devastation of their fans. For more than a decade, very little was mentioned about the members of the defunct band. Yes, we knew that Jon had moved into real estate; Jordan was working on solo material; Danny popped up as a member of Upper Street; Joey was still involved in the music industry but had also branched out into acting, as did Donnie, although Donnie’s fame was now eclipsed by that of his younger brother Mark Wahlberg, who was fast on his way to becoming a respected Hollywood actor. And of course there was talk of girlfriends, wives and babies – things that had to be kept under wraps when the band were at the height of their fame. With the former New Kids following their own paths in life, a reunion seemed out of the question. Who could forget Bands Reunited where only the Knight brothers agreed to return? As the years went by, the odds of NKOTB making a comeback were very, very low.

 

Well it’s a good job I’m not a betting person or I would have lost. As much as it would have been a dream come true for me for my fave band to reunite, I wasn’t going to hold my breath. I’d gotten my hopes up before with their 1994 comeback, plus the boys appeared to have moved on and expressed no interest in reuniting. But to prove that miracles do indeed happen, New Kids On The Block announced that they were getting back together again in 2008 and the world cheered – well us Blockhead’s did anyway! Their first release in nearly fifteen years was Summertime from their album The Block and they’ve been going strong ever since.

 

That’s why their recent accolade is so poignant. If they had not reunited they would have just faded into obscurity and they would have been known as ‘that band what used to be famous.’ When they hit the big time, they had to put up with sneers from critics. When they disbanded they had to put up with even more ridicule and had to watch as part of their fanbase (not the real fans) moved onto the next big thing and forgot about them. They went from being everywhere to being nowhere. They were no longer taken seriously or regarded as cool.

But they rose above it all… and look where they are now…

THE FANS

 

“If we are the star that’s going to be on this famed boulevard with these legendary names for the rest of time, then you guys are the soil and the concrete – the foundation that inspires us everyday to get up, keep going and say, ‘To hell with the naysayers,’ and ‘To hell with our crinkly bones.’ You are our fuel, our energy and our inspiration.” Donnie Wahlberg

New Kids On The Block really do have the best fans in the world – even if I do say so myself. However, I know it’s something that the group agree with.

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NKOTB’s  real fans never forgot them or gave up on them and the band are lucky to have such a loyal, strong and supportive fan base. Even though we might have grown up – with a lot of us having New Kids of our own – we’ve grown up with them and their music. And what’s so important about the star that the New Kids have been honoured with is that it was something that the fans called for, especially Melissa Buja, a Blockhead from Massachusetts, who led the campaign for the group to receive a star for the last three years.  As a result, Donnie gave a special mention to the fans during his speech.

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When New Kids first burst on the scene, the whole world went New Kids barmy. We’d had Bros, Brother Beyond and Wham! before them but I’d never seen anything like it. We wore ripped jeans like they did; we made up dances to their songs; we wore black rubber bracelets; we thought rat tails were cool; we went to the concerts we bought anything that had their faces or the band’s logo on it… in short our lives revolved around New Kids On The Block. And it stayed that way until they split.

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Most of us were delighted when they returned in 1994 with Face The Music. We had images of New Kids world domination taking over again. But alas it was not to be. A lot of the fans who used to like NKOTB had now lost interest and were into other boy bands who had formed after seeing the success of the New Kids. No one had ever told either the bands or the fans that imitation is never as good as the real deal! What was sad after the group split was that it was suddenly seriously uncool to admit to liking the New Kids. We were supposed to hate them and toss out all the memorabilia. So I collected all the New Kids goodies that no one wanted any more – and accepted the ridicule that went with it. I look at my vast collection of New Kids memorabilia and it was all so worth it. As far as I’m concerned, the New Kids have always been in and always been cool and I really don’t give two sh**s what anyone thinks. At least I don’t have sheep mentality.

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I’d met and formed a friendship with another Blockhead after the group broke up. I always liked meeting people who were still very much Blockheads and proud of it, who said that she was a Boyzone fan because out of all the boy bands out there, they were the best of the bunch. But her heart well and truly belonged to the New Kids – especially Joey McIntyre. It still does.

Us fans have never been prouder of being Blockheads than we were on Thursday!

WHY WE LOVE THEM

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Goodness – where do we start! The New Kids are mega talented, gorgeous, they sing beautifully, have great moves, write amazing lyrics, show love to their fans, are very family-orientated, still love their hometown… I could go on forever. It’s so difficult to put into words why we love them. They’re a band like no other. They’ve captured our hearts and there will never be another group like them.

The Bean Town posse proved that it was possible for the ordinary kid on the block to live the dream and be a success. They proved that it was possible to get back up on your feet when you got knocked down and come back bigger and badder than ever. And they weren’t afraid of hard work. I remember listening to an interview with the New Kids when the interviewer, Clive Warren, remembered going on tour with the boys and described just how hard they worked:

“You would have breakfast just before the evening show,” Warren revealed.

"I don't care what any of you say, this selfie is way cooler than Obama's..."

“I don’t care what any of you say, this selfie is way cooler than Obama’s…”

I also remember how Take That took a pop at them back in ’94 when the New Kids were making a comeback. The delightful Gary Barlow said that the boys would probably be opening up for Take That. A very dignified Joey McIntyre refused to rise to the bait but did say that he didn’t think Take That would be saying stupid things like that if they were all in the same room.

Too right! And far be it for me to gloat but I think we can all see who’s having the last laugh now.

I love the New Kids. Totally love them. I always will. I have been a proud Blockhead since day one – and I could not be prouder. Thanks for all the magical memories, New Kids. I look forward to many more and huge congrats on your success. You’re awesome!

 

 “You know why I love them? They make us happy. You cannot listen to a song or watch a video and not smile. Their songs will be our oldies when we’re old. We’re going to have the greatest oldies in the history of music… because we have New Kids.” Arsenio Hall

 

 

 

 

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Why Everyone Needs An Uncle Phil

It’s been almost three weeks and I still cannot get my head around the sad passing of James Avery at the age of 68. The actor who passed away on New Year’s Eve in California due to complications from open heart surgery has been acting since 1980 and has had roles in a lot of my childhood faves including Beauty And The Beast, Jake And The Fatman, The Dukes Of Hazard, Cagney and Lacey, The Scarecrow and Mrs. King, The A-Team, Moonlighting and Dallas. And that’s just a fraction of his long acting career. In addition to all this, he also provided the voice for Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Planet of The Turtleoids; was an accomplished poet and served in Vietnam. But what the Virginia Native is most well-known for – especially here in the UK – is his role as tough but loveable attorney (and later judge) Philip Banks in The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air.

Avery played the patriarch in the popular nineties sit-com where his gruff manner often brought him into conflict with his family, especially his nephew Will, played by Will Smith who has been sent by his worried mother to live with the Banks family after Will got into a fight. He was tough and straight-talking and never put up with any nonsense from anyone. Who could forget the number of times Will’s friend, Jazz was comically thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil for being cheeky? Or the way Uncle Phil dealt with the officer on duty after he and Will were wrongfully arrested and put in a cell on Thanksgiving? Or how he took on the hustlers at the pool hall? That was Uncle Phil – he could put the fear of God into anyone.

But underneath that tough exterior was a real family man who loved his wife and kids including his wayward nephew. He was fiercely protective of them all and was determined that his children made good use of the opportunities that were available to them and make something of their lives rather than grow up to be over-privileged, spoilt rich kids.

 

Philip Banks was the example of the kind of father/uncle every man should be. He wasn’t afraid to discipline his children, teaching them right from wrong but he was fair and loving when he needed to be. Despite being born into a life full of privileges, he encouraged them to be independent, to stand on their own two feet and to have ambition. Even though the kids got themselves into scrapes a number of times – scrapes Philip often had to rescue them from – there wasn’t the slightest sign of addiction, rehab visits, dysfunctional relationships or scandal – a sure sign that he was doing something right. It’s no wonder that the character of Philip Banks ranked number 34 in TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” [20 June 2004 issue]. Although personally, I think he should have ranked much higher. James Avery is quoted as having said, “I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.” In a world where people have made their iPads and notebooks their very best friends, Avery reminds us that it’s human contact that is important. He’s also quoted as saying, “Monetary success is not success. Career success is not success. Life, someone that loves you, giving to others, doing something that makes you feel complete and full. That is success. And it isn’t dependent on anyone else.” I think it would be fair to say that a lot of James Avery went into the character of Philip Banks.

Naturally I have fond memories of watching The Fresh Prince. During the 1990s it used to be on in the evenings on a weekday and I’d much rather be watching The Fresh Prince than doing my homework. Who cares if I got told off and had to complete homework in detention? All the kids at school would be talking about it and rapping the lyrics to the theme tune – there was no way I was missing out on all of that. It was one of the most popular shows of the decade and something that I used to watch with my siblings. I was so disappointed when the series eventually ended but to this day I’m so glad that it featured as part of my childhood memories and made it’s mark in my era.

Even after The Fresh Prince ended, Avery continued to work steadily as a voice over artist and made appearances in shows such as My Wife and Kids, Grey’s Anatomy, Star Trek: Enterprise, NYPD Blue, That 70s Show and Charmed. Avery often played characters in the legal or some other high level professional field and he will forever be remembered for his towering stature, beard and booming voice.

Of course tributes came in thick and fast for the actor – who is survived by his mother, wife Barbara and stepson Kevin – after news of his death broke. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince, took to Facebook to say:

“The world has lost a truly special man. I am very saddened to say 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.”

Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith also paid tribute to the man she had the honour of working with on The Fresh Prince:

“We have lost yet another friend. James Avery who we all lovingly know as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince has passed. Our condolences to aunt Florence (his mother), Miss Barbara (his wife) and all those who loved him. Rest in peace James.”

Avery’s on-screen daughter, Tatiana Ali stated that Avery would “always be a part of me,” while supermodel Tyra Banks who also starred in The Fresh Prince remembered how warm Avery was to her on-set.

But the most poignant tribute came from Will Smith who summed up perfectly what everyone felt:

“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.”

An actor who will be sorely missed… and he will forever be everyone’s Uncle Phil.

 

Rest in peace, James Avery. Thanks for the memories.

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2014 in Gone Too Soon

 

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