Robert Guillaume, 'Benson' and 'The Lion King' Star, Dies at 89

Katie Roberts
'Red Tails' Opening Night Screening

Robert Guillaume, a prolific, award-winning actor on stage and screen who starred in the sitcom "Benson" and voiced Rafiki in "The Lion King," has died. He was 89.

Guillaume passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday, his wife, Donna Brown Guillaume, told The Associated Press. The actor had battled prostate cancer in recent years.

Guillaume won two Emmys for playing Benson, a sharp-tongued butler who first made his debut on the ABC sitcom "Soap." The character was later spun-off on his own eponymous sitcom, which ran from 1979 through 1986, earning Guillaume a total of five Emmy nominations.

In film, Guillaume voiced Rafiki, the wise baboon who serves as a spiritual adviser to Mufasa and Simba in Disney's 1994 animated classic, "The Lion King." The actor reprised the role multiple times for sequels, TV series, and video games, among other properties, and won a Grammy for his Rafiki vocals on a spoken word "Lion King" audio book in 1995.

Guillaume was also known for his role as Isaac, the station manager on beloved Aaron Sorkin sitcom "Sports Night." When the actor had a mild stroke on set in 1999, he had the event written into the show.

In addition to those roles, the actor also appeared in numerous other television series, including "The Robert Guillaume Show," "Happily Ever After, "Julia," "Marcus Welby, M.D.," "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons," "Good Times," "The Love Boat," "L.A. Law," "Diagnosis Murder," "Touched by an Angel," and "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." On film, Guillaume appeared in "Seems Like Old Times," "Lean on Me," "Death Warrant," "The Meteor Man," "First Kid," "Spy Hard," and "Big Fish."

Guillaume was nominated for a Tony for "Guys and Dolls" in 1977.

[via: The Hollywood Reporter]

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