James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on the '90s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," died on New Year's Eve of complications from open heart surgery. He was 68.

Actor Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Avery's TV son on the long-running hit, expressed his grief via Facebook and Twitter, writing:

"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."

Avery appeared on a slew of other television shows during his career. He lent his voice to the animated series "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Iron Man" and had guest-spots on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Harry's Law."

He also hosted the PBS travel series "Going Places."

The actor worked up until September of this year shooting the Kickstarter-funded comedy "Wish I Was Here" directed by comedian Zach Braff. The film is set to premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival later this month.

Avery is survived by his wife Barbara and step-son Kevin Waters.

james avery

Avery with TV son Ribeiro on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"