Guillaume in 1980
|Born||Robert Peter Williams
November 30, 1927
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Robert Guillaume (born Robert Peter Williams; November 30, 1927) is an American stage and television actor, known for his role as Benson on the TV-series Soap and the spin-off Benson, voicing the mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King and as Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night. In a career that has spanned more than 50 years he has worked extensively on stage (including a Tony Award nomination), television (including winning two Emmy Awards), and film.
After leaving the university, Guillaume joined the Karamu Players in Cleveland and performed in musical comedies and opera. He toured the world in 1959 as a cast member of the Broadway musical Free and Easy. He made his Broadway debut in Kwamina in 1961. Other stage appearances included Golden Boy, Tambourines to Glory, Guys and Dolls, for which he received a Tony Award nomination, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, the Los Angeles production of The Phantom of the Opera (succeeding Michael Crawford in the lead role), and Purlie!. Added roles were in Katherine Dunham's Bambouche and in Fly The Blackbird. In 1964 he portrayed Sportin' Life in a revival of Porgy and Bess at New York's City Center. Guillaume has been a member of the Robert de Cormier Singers, performing in concerts and on television. He has soloed on The Tonight Show. He recorded a LP record, Columbia CS9033, titled Just Arrived as a member of The Pilgrims, a folk trio, with Angeline Butler and Millard Williams. In the sixties he was in Vienna, Austria, Europe at the Vienna Volksoper. Marcel Prawy engaged Robert Guillaume for the role of Sporting Life in Porgy and Bess.
Guillaume made several guest appearances on sitcoms, including Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Saved By The Bell: The College Years and in the 1990s sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and A Different World. His series-regular debut began on the ABC series Soap, playing Benson, a butler, from 1977 to 1979. Guillaume continued the role in a spinoff series, Benson, from 1979 until 1986. Guillaume also played Dr. Franklin in Season 6 episode #8 titled "Chain Letter" in the series All in the Family.
In 1985, Guillaume appeared in the television mini-series, North and South, as Fredrick Douglass, who had escaped from slavery and became a leader of the abolitionist movement, prior to the American Civil War.
He also appeared as marriage counselor Edward Sawyer on The Robert Guillaume Show (1989), Detective Bob Ballard on Pacific Station (1991), and television executive Isaac Jaffe on Aaron Sorkin's short-lived but critically acclaimed Sports Night (1998–2000). Guillaume suffered a mild stroke on January 14, 1999, while filming an episode of the latter series. He recovered and his character was later also depicted as having had a stroke. He also made a guest appearance on 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
- Super Fly T.N.T. (1973)
- The Kid from Left Field (co-starring Gary Coleman) (1979)
- Seems Like Old Times (1980)
- The Kid with the Broken Halo (co-starring Gary Coleman) (1982)
- The Kid with the 200 I.Q. (also co-starring Gary Coleman) (1983)
- Prince Jack (1985) - Martin Luther King Jr.
- North and South (1985) - Fredrick Douglass
- Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)
- Lean on Me (1989)
- Death Warrant (1990)
- The Meteor Man (1993) - Ted Reed
- The Lion King (1994) - Rafiki (voice)
- First Kid (1996)
- Spy Hard (1996) - Agent Steve Bishop
- The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride (1998)
- The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze (2001) - Mr. Thicknose
- The 13th Child: Legend of the Jersey Devil (2002)
- Unchained Memories (2003)
- Big Fish (2003)
- The Lion King 1½ (2004)
- The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry (2009)
- Satin (2011)
- Columbus Circle (2012)
His voice has also been used for characters in television series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Fish Police, and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and for the voice of Rafiki in the movie The Lion King and its sequels and spin-offs. He also voiced Amedee Carillon in The Real Story of Sur Le Pont D'Avignon. He voiced Mr. Thicknose in The Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze. He also supplied the voice for Eli Vance in the 2004 video game Half-Life 2 and its subsequent sequels.
Honors and awards
Guillaume won an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award in 1979 for the series Soap and an Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award in 1985 for Benson. In 1995, Guillaume received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for The Lion King read-along book, which he narrates in the voice of Rafiki. Guillaume has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
- "The almanac". United Press International. 2008-11-30. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- Richard Huff (1999-01-21). "Stroke Sidelines Guillaume". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- Jeremy Gerard (1994-06-12). "The Lion King". Variety. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- Ellen Hawkes (1992-05-24). "The Anger Sustained Me". Toledo Blade. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- "Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Or Comedy-Variety Or Music Series 1979". Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series 1985". Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- "Biography". Retrieved 2012-09-07.
- St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". stlouiswalkoffame.org. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Guillaume.|
- Official website
- Robert Guillaume at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Guillaume at the Internet Broadway Database
- Robert Guillaume at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- St. Louis Walk of Fame
- Robert Guillaume's oral history video excerpts at The National Visionary Leadership Project
- Robert Guillaume interview video at the Archive of American Television