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Lewis Jefferies

Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume — best known for The Lion King, Soap and Benson — has passed away at the age of 89. He died at his home in Los Angeles following a battle with prostate cancer.

Born Robert Williams on November 30, 1927 and brought up by his maternal grandmother, Guillaume's dream was to sing with the metropolitan Opera in New York. His dreams came true and he won a scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival. Guillaume then went into an apprenticeship at Cleveland's Karamu Theater, where he ended up appearing in musical comedies and operas, ultimately leading to a Hollywood career.

A Look Back At Guillaume's Career

[Credit: Disney]
[Credit: Disney]

Guillaume became well-known to the world when he stared as Benson the "witty butler" in the show Soap, which ran from 1977-1981. Following the success of Soap, Guillaume's character was given his own comedy spinoff titled Benson. The spinoff show began in 1979 and came to a close in 1986.

Winning an Emmy Award in 1985 for outstanding actor, Guillaume made history as the first black person to win in that category.

In 1994, Guillaume joined Disney by providing the voice of Rafiki in the much loved animated film . He ended up sticking around as Rafiki and returned for the sequels as well as the video games and television series. Guillaume joined Aaron Sorkin's ABC comedy show Sports Night, where he played Isaac Jaffe, who was the managing editor of the ESPN-style news show.

In 1999, whilst working on Sports Night, Guillaume suffered a stroke in his dressing room. In 2008, he spoke about his stroke:

"I was fortunate in the sense that the stroke I suffered was not so debilitating that I could not move around with some degree of regularity. My wife Donna suggested to Aaron that perhaps we could incorporate the stroke into the series and he agreed … it allowed me to come back and not pretend that I had not had a stroke."

In 2012, Guillaume made his final feature length appearance in the film Columbus Circle.

Celebrities Remembering Robert Guillaume

Celebrities and many of Guillaume's fans have taken to social media to express their condolences and share their memories they made with the brilliant actor. Kevin T. Porter shared a memory from Sports Night by sharing a video on Twitter.

One fan Tweeted saying Sports Night "had the biggest influence" on him growing up and Guillaume "defined it" for him.

Another Twitter user said Guillaume "radiated such warmth, light, dignity and above all, class."

Guillaume touched many hearts around the world, and his work will continue to do so in the future. He will be missed dearly by millions.

What is your favorite film or TV show featuring Robert Guillaume? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)


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