Robert Guillaume Was 'Benson' For 7 Seasons, Then Appeared on 'Lean on Me' and 'Lion King'

Robert Guillaume

Actor Robert Guillaume is best remembered for his role as Benson Dubois in Benson, a TV sitcom that aired for 7 seasons on ABC from 1979 to 1986.

Born on November 30, 1927, in St Louis, Missouri, Guillaume was raised by his grandmother with his siblings after being abandoned by their biological mother. He studied at St Louis University, graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, and later served in the United States Army before pursuing an acting career.

He first appeared on an ABC series called Soap where he played the role of Benson DuBois, an African American butler working for a white politician. He continued that role in the spin-off series, Benson which was a huge success and ran for 158 episodes.

He also portrayed the role of Dr. Frankline Napier, in the 1989 film Lean on Me with Morgan Freeman, and he was the voice of Rafiki in the original The Lion King animated film in 1994.

Guillaume has won many awards for his work. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and won two Emmy Awards - one for Soap, and the other for Benson.

In 1984, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1995, he won a Grammy Award for his spoken word performance in the audiobook version of The Lion King.

In 1999, he suffered a stroke while filming an episode of Sports Night, a series that aired on ABC. He later recovered and his character on the show was depicted as having had a stroke too.

His next health scare was 18 years later in 2017. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer but unfortunately did not recover. He died that year at his home in Los Angeles, California.