James Avery (Finding Aid)

James Avery

1945 -

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Food: All of it

Favorite Time of Year: Christmastime

Favorite Vacation Spot: The ocean

Interview Length: 187 minutes

Interview Date(s): June 24, 2003

Interview Location(s): Los Angeles, California


Former star of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, James Avery shares several poignant stories from his hardscrabble childhood. Born to a single mother, and a father who denied paternity, Avery recalls his difficult ealy years of homelessness and poverty. His mother's descision to move to Atlantic City proved instumental in providing a better life for her young son, James. Avery recalls in great detail the wonderous sights and sounds of his youth on the Atlantic seashore.

Actor James Avery continues with his description of his childhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He discusses his education and battles with accusations of acting white. Avery notes he was an underacheiver, but didn't allow those labels to stop him from completing his education.

Television actor James Avery describes his rebellious nature as a teen which led him to butt heads while in high school and college. Frustrated by his relationship with his mother, Avery joined the Navy during the height of the Vietnam war. He discusses his involvement in several covert operations near Laos and Cambodia and efforts during the infamous Tet Offensive in 1968. After serving his 4 years, Avery enrolls in the University of California, San Diego and details the changes the war made in him.

Actor James Avery details his life as a young stage actor then later as a television character actor. Classically trained in England and a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Avery felt stifled by the limitation of the acting troupe and decided to give Hollywood a try. Avery was fortunate to find steady work on a number of popular series, LA Law, Simon & Simon, Hill Street Blues among others.

Actor James Avery describes his life as a black actor in search ofroles with dignity an meaning. While in a network sitcom, by chance Avery auditioned for the role of the father and butler for an up and coming rapper, Will Smith. After telling this impertinent young man who had his feet on the table to sit up and remove his feet, Avery landed the role of the imperious but loving Uncle Phillip on the NBC sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Acotr James Avery shares some of his disaapointments in his acting carreer. He details the political machinations at UPN which led to the demise of his well rated show, 'Sparks'. Avery also discusses issues of race which pervade the television industry in terms of casting and the creation of television situation comedies or 'sitcoms'.

Actor James Avery shares his thoughts on acting, blacks in Hollywood and his mother's acceptance of his acting career. The segment closes with several photos from Avery's personal collection

58 Stories (See Ordered Story Set)