Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume died today at the age of 89. Guillaume passed away in his home after battling prostate cancer. He was born in St. Louis Missouri and attended St. Louis University and Washington University as well as serving in the U.S. Army before becoming an actor.
Best known for his iconic role of Benson DuBois which started on the sitcom Soap and then spun out into his own series Benson. He played the role for 10 years and won an Emmy for both shows playing the dry-witted butler. He also starred in the short-lived Aaron Sorkin series Sports Night, playing television executive Isaac Jaffe. He would also appear on a wide variety of series including Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Sons, All In The Family, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the Robert Guillaume Show. He played abolitionist Fredrick Douglas in the mini-series North and South.
His appearances on the big screen included voicing Rafiki in the Lion King as well as the films Lean On Me, The Meteor Man, First Kid, Spy Hard and Big Fish. One of my personal favorite roles for him was Philmore Walker playing opposite of Rutger Hauer and Gene Simmons in Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Guillaume was also know for his stage work, performing in the first all-black version of Guys and Dolls, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1977. Among his many stage roles, Guillaume was also the first black actor to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera during it's run in Los Angeles, taking over for Michael Crawford.
He also lent his voice to a variety of video games including taking on the role of Dr. Eli Vance in the Half Life franchise.
He is survived by his wife Donna Brown Guillaume who made the announcement.