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Actor James Avery Steps Onstage as 'Othello'

James Avery is best known as Philip Banks, the wealthy uncle of Will Smith's character in the 1990s TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But his work encompasses a broader range, from movies to voicing animation to his latest role onstage in a California production of William Shakespeare's Othello.

Avery tells Ed Gordon that he loved his role on Fresh Prince and has no regrets about the show, which ended in 1996 and now runs in syndication. He does note, however, that carving out new directions after having a popular TV show can be a challenge. "The powers that be, somehow, they only see one thing. They don't see the 10 years of work that one did before one got Fresh Prince, for example."

Avery, 58, keeps busy nonetheless. Avery has played Othello before and was glad to revisit the role, saying it's a different experience every night. He adds, "It's exciting to be able to handle language, you know? To be able to say something besides 'Hey you, drop the gun.'"

Othello runs through Sept. 25 at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga, Calif.

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