Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 – 3:04 PM
(CNS) – Robert Guillaume, who rose to fame portraying sharp- witted butler Benson DuBois on the 1970s sitcom “Soap” and again in the spinoff “Benson,” died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home at age 89.
His wife, Donna Brown Guillaume, told The Associated Press the actor had been battling prostate cancer.
While known for his television work, the St. Louis native was a seasoned stage performer, beginning with an apprenticeship at Cleveland’s Karamu Theatre then in New York with roles in shows including “Porgy and Bess,” “Othello” and “Apple Pie.” He earned a Tony nomination for his lead role as Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” in 1977.
Guillaume earned six Emmy nominations for his role as Benson on “Soap,” winning in 1979 for best supporting actor in a comedy. He won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy when his character spawned the spinoff “Benson.” In that show, Benson began as the butler for a governor, but he rose to the post of state budget director and eventually lieutenant governor.
Guillaume returned to his stage roots after “Benson” ended, taking over the lead role in the Los Angeles production of “Phantom of the Opera” from original phantom Michael Crawford.
He also appeared in films including “Lean on Me,” “The Meteor Man,” “Big Fish,” “Spy Hard” and “First Kid.”
Guillaume also voiced the mandrill Rafiki in Disney’s “The Lion King.”
He is survived by his wife, a son and three daughters.