LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, known for his dulcet voice and for his portrayal of Benson on the hit sitcoms “Soap” and its subsequent spin-off “Benson” has died. He was 89.
According to the Associated Press, his wife Donna Brown Guillaume said he died at their Los Angeles home of complications of prostate cancer.
Guillaume created the character Benson Du Bois, a dryly sarcastic butler that first appeared in the 1977 series “Soap.” In 1979, his character was spun off with his own series “Benson” in which the titular character served as the head of household affairs for the absentminded Governor Eugene Gatling (played by Robert Noble). The show was notable in that Benson, who was African-American, became increasingly influential until he himself ran for governor of the unnamed state in the series finale.
Guillaume also had roles in the 1998 sit-com “Sports Night” but his role in the show was curtailed after he suffered a stroke.
Guillaume also performed on the big screen, with roles in films such as “Spy Hard” (1996), Tim Burton’ “Big Fish” (2003) and Disney’s animated Lion King moves as the voice of Rafiki, a wise old mandrill.
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Guillaume served in the U.S. Army and attended St. Louis University and Washington University before he began his acting career in stage productions, making his Broadway debut in 1961 in “Kwamina.: Other notable productions he appeared in include “Golden Boy,” “Tambourines to Glory,” “Guys and Dolls,” for which he received a Tony Award nomination, and the 1986 revival of “Phantom of the Opera.”
Guillaume won two Emmys, one in 1979 for “Soap” and again in 1985 for “Benson” and he also won a Grammy in 1995 for his voice work in the “The Lion King” Read-a-long Book
He is survived by his second wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume; one son; and three daughters.