It’s always a sad day when a great singer and actor passes away, and today we remember the life of Robert Guillaume, who died on Tuesday aged 89.
The sad passing of this gifted actor was confirmed by Guillaume’s widow, Donna Brown Guillaume. She told the Associated Press that her husband had died following complications from prostate cancer, and that he had passed away in their Los Angeles home.
Throughout his life and career, Robert Guillaume had a huge impact on the world of television and music, and was known for his dry wit and his lovable characters. The actor rose to fame in the ‘70s, appearing on the likes of Good Times, The Jeffersons and All in the Family, before scoring his breakout role as Benson DuBois in Soap. After two years on the show, the popular butler managed to bag himself his own spin-off – and Benson won Guillaume two Emmy Awards. However, he wasn’t always up for playing the butler.
When I got the role of Benson, I was not the happiest camper. I had reservations ‘cause you’re serving food, you’re serving a family and all that sort of thing, and it thrusts you back in time. It’s as though nothing has changed since 1800. But then the more I examined the role and read the script, I figured out a way to take some of the stench off the idea.
Alongside his work on TV, Guillaume also made a name for himself on the stage and screen. In 1977, Guillaume lended his acting talents and his voice in the first all-black production of the popular Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. A few years later, he returned to the stage as the first ever black actor to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera. However, one of his most memorable roles came in 1994, when Robert was cast as the lovable shaman, Rafiki, in Disney’s The Lion King. This role came with an incredible script, and Rafiki brought us some of the most iconic quotes in Disney history. Here’s our favorite:
The past can hurt, but the way I see it you can either run from it or learn from it.
Rest in peace, Robert Guillaume.