Famed actor of stage and screen Robert Guillaume has died, according to the Associated Press. His wife, Donna Brown Guillaume told the AP in a statement that the 89-year old-passed away in his Los Angeles home on Tuesday after a 25-year-long battle with prostate cancer.
Guillaume was best known for his portrayal of the always-polished butler Benson DuBois, which originated on the sitcom Soap in 1977 and was the subject of a spinoff that ran from 1979-1986. A six-time Emmy nominee, he’d was named Best Supporting Actor in 1979, and Outstanding Actor in a Comedy for Benson in 1985–an honor that no other Black actor would receive until Donald Glover’s Atlanta win earlier this year.
The St. Louis native’s film resume includes roles in Lean on Me, Death Warrant, The Meteor Man and Spy Hard, and in 1994, he won a Grammy for voicing Rafiki, the wise mandrill in The Lion King. Guillaume was also nominated for a Tony Award (“Best Actor in a Musical”) for his appearance in a 1977 all-Black Broadway production of Guys and Dolls and appeared on on ABC’s critically acclaimed-but-short lived Sports Night from 1998-2000.