Famed actor Robert Guillaume, known for his critically acclaimed role as beloved butler “Benson,” died Tuesday at home in Los Angeles, Variety reports.
His wife, Donna Brown Guillaume, told the AP that Guillaume succumbed from complications relating to prostate cancer.
Guillaume enjoyed a long acting career appearing in many notable movies, television shows, and Broadway plays. In 1979 he won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a comedy series for his role as in “Soap,” where he originated the role of “Benson.” He also voiced the character of Rafiki in the 1994 Disney hit, “The Lion King,” which earned him a Grammy in spoken word recording.
His dry take as ‘Benson,’ a Black butler to a prominent white family, earned a self-titled spin-off series, leading to an Emmy win in 1985 for Best Lead Actor in a comedy series. Guillaume also had several notable guest appearances on hit shows like “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Sanford and Son.”
During the 90’s he enjoyed a re-emergence in television roles, appearing on “Sports Night,” “Saved By The Bell: The College Years,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and “A Different World.”
Some of his most notable movie roles in “Superbly T.N.T., “Lean On Me,” and “Big Fish.”
Guillaume was born Robert Peter Williams in St. Louis, Mo. in 1927, but changed after he decided on an acting career. He’s survived by his second wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume; one son (another died in 1990); and three daughters.