Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known for playing the title character on the TV series Benson and for voicing Rafiki in The Lion King, has died at the age of 89.
Guillaume passed away in his Los Angeles home on Tuesday (October 24) after a battle with prostate cancer, his wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press.
The actor won two Emmy Awards for his portrayal of TV’s Benson, first on the series Soap from 1977, and then in a spin-off series named after the character. Benson ran for seven seasons from 1979 to 1986.
Guillaume became the first black actor to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor for Benson at the 1985 ceremony.
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Lending his voice to the role of the mandrill Rafiki in the Disney animated classic The Lion King, Guillaume’s work saw him win a Grammy in the spoken word category.
Samuel L Jackson, Billy Crystal and Nancy Sinatra are among those paying tributes to him.
Class, Grace & Talent Personified!! RIP Robert Guillaume— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 25, 2017
Jackson labeled him "Class, Grace & Talent Personified" in a post on Twitter.
Crystal tweeted: "Sad to hear of the passing of Robert Guillaume. He was a great support to me on Soap. Great timing, charisma and class. Rest in Peace."
Sinatra wrote: "Godspeed, sir, and condolences to friends and family."
RIP to EmmyAward winning Army vet, star of stage & screen, Robert Guillaume. 1st black actor to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera pic.twitter.com/WA2aezsfQz— jesse Williams. (@iJesseWilliams) October 24, 2017
Actor Jesse Williams posted: "RIP to EmmyAward winning Army vet, star of stage & screen, Robert Guillaume. 1st black actor to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera."
George Takei wrote: "Another light has left us. Robert Guillaume, you were beloved across America and brought laughter always with you."
Josh Charles - who co-starred alongside Guillaume in Sports Night - shared a personal account of the actor.
He wrote: "Robert Guillaume radiated such warmth, light, dignity, and above all, class. That smile and laugh touched us all. RIP to the best boss ever. Making him laugh gave me such pleasure. Remembering those moments now, I'm tearing up. I loved that man. My thoughts are with his family."