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Bel-Air’s Adrian Holmes On Paying Tribute To James Avery And Uncle Phil – Exclusive

Bel-Air’s Adrian Holmes On Paying Tribute To James Avery And Uncle Phil – Exclusive

As Uncle Phil on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” James Avery was a towering figure both in stature and onscreen presence. Uncle Phil was stern but warm, demanding but loving, and over six seasons, Avery made Uncle Phil the father-figure we all wish we had. While Avery had a lengthy career in movies and TV, he was best known — and most beloved — for his depiction of Uncle Phil. When he passed away in 2013 at the age of 68, fans mourned the loss.

Now, in Peacock’s reboot “Bel-Air,” a new actor, Adrian Holmes, is playing Uncle Phil. While he has big shoes to fill, neither the people behind the show nor Holmes himself are trying to replicate Avery’s performance. That’s all for the better as it lets Holmes’ Uncle Phil forge his own path in a story that maintains the basic outlines of the sitcom but grounds it in modern-day drama. In Holmes’ hands, Phil becomes an ambitious striver who does his best to support his kids and his nephew Will (Jabari Banks), even when he doesn’t entirely understand them. 

Holmes brings a warmth to the role that people who loved Avery’s version of the character will recognize, but he also puts his own distinct spin on the character. Speaking exclusively to Looper, Holmes discussed the experience of stepping into the role of Uncle Phil for “Bel-Air” and his desire to pay homage to Avery through his performance.

An homage to an icon

While there’s surely additional pressure that comes with taking on such a revered character, Holmes indicated he felt privileged to take on the challenge of playing the character originated by Avery. “It made it that much more special,” Holmes noted of becoming Uncle Phil, “because of what [Avery] did and the fact that he’s not here with us anymore, unfortunately.”

Holmes said that he did his best to ensure he brought authenticity and realism to the reimagined version of Uncle Phil. “I really wanted to make sure that I did it justice,” Holmes revealed, “that I was of service to this iconic role. I really wanted to be authentic, and tell my side of it, like how I saw the role.”

In the end, Holmes’ work in “Bel-Air” honors Avery’s memory even as it brings Uncle Phil into 2022. “It’s a tribute to him for me,” Holmes shared, “giving back to him.”

New episodes of “Bel-Air” are available on Thursdays on Peacock.

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