Robert Guillaume, Star of 'Benson' & Voice of Rafiki in 'The Lion King,' Dead at 89
Robert Guillaume, the Emmy Award-winning actor best known for playing Benson on the TV series Soap and the spinoff, Benson, reportedly died on Tuesday. He was 89.
According to the Associated Press, he died at his Los Angeles home after a battle with prostate cancer.
He was also well known for playing Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night and voicing the beloved Rafiki in The Lion King, a role which ultimately landed him a Grammy for a spoken word recording. He made several TV guest appearances on sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Saved By the Bell: The College Years and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
In addition to TV, Guillaume was also no stranger to the stage. As a cast member in Broadway's Free and Easy, he toured the world in 1959. Two years later he made his Broadway debut in Kwamina, later appearing in musicals like Golden Boy, Tambourines to Glory and Guys and Dolls, which landed him a Tony Award nomination.
Before stepping into a career where he spent more than 50 years in the spotlight, Guillaume, who was born in St. Louis, Missouri, studied at St. Louis University and Washington University. He also served in the United States Army.
Guillaume is survived by his second wife, Donna Brown Guillaume, and his three children. One of his kids, a son named Jacques, died from AIDS in 1990.