Lynda Salyer

Written by Lynda Salyer

Modified & Updated: 19 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


Robert Guillaume was not only a talented actor but also a trailblazer in the entertainment industry. With a career spanning over five decades, Guillaume graced our screens with his extraordinary performances and undeniable charisma. From his iconic role as Benson DuBois in the hit TV show “Benson” to his outstanding voice work as Rafiki in Disney’s “The Lion King,” Guillaume left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment.

In this article, we will delve into the life and career of this legendary actor, sharing 17 captivating facts that shed light on his journey to stardom. From his humble beginnings in St. Louis to his groundbreaking achievements as an African American actor, Guillaume’s story is one of perseverance and triumph. So sit back, relax, and prepare to be enthralled as we uncover the fascinating world of Robert Guillaume.

Key Takeaways:

  • Robert Guillaume, known for his role as Benson DuBois, won two Emmy Awards and voiced Rafiki in “The Lion King,” showcasing his exceptional talent and versatility in the entertainment industry.
  • Despite facing challenges, Robert Guillaume’s resilience, activism, and captivating performances left an enduring legacy, inspiring aspiring actors and fans worldwide.
Table of Contents

Robert Guillaume starred as Benson DuBois in the hit TV series “Benson.”

Known for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued but lovable butler, Robert Guillaume charmed audiences with his quick wit and undeniable talent.

He won two Primetime Emmy Awards for his role in “Benson.”

Robert Guillaume’s exceptional performance as Benson DuBois earned him accolades, including two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Guillaume also voiced the character of Rafiki in Disney’s “The Lion King.”

His iconic portrayal of the wise and spiritual baboon earned him praise from audiences of all ages.

Robert Guillaume made history as the first African American to portray the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera.”

This groundbreaking performance showcased Guillaume’s incredible vocal range and stage presence.

He received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for “The Lion King Read-Along” in 1995.

Guillaume’s captivating narration skills brought the beloved story to life for millions of children and adults alike.

Robert Guillaume was born on November 30, 1927, in St. Louis, Missouri.

His humble beginnings would serve as the foundation for his incredible journey in the entertainment industry.

Before his acting career, Guillaume worked as a social worker and taught at the St. Louis University.

His compassion and dedication to helping others shone through in both his personal and professional life.

Guillaume’s birth name was Robert Peter Williams.

He later changed it to Robert Guillaume to stand out and honor his French heritage.

In addition to his acting skills, Robert Guillaume was also a talented singer.

His smooth and soulful voice captivated audiences on both stage and screen.

He suffered a stroke in 1999 but made a remarkable recovery and continued acting.

Guillaume’s resilience and determination showcased his unwavering passion for his craft.

Robert Guillaume received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985.

His contributions to the entertainment industry were recognized and celebrated with this prestigious honor.

He appeared in popular TV shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Sports Night.”

Guillaume’s versatility as an actor allowed him to leave an indelible mark on various television series.

Robert Guillaume wrote an autobiography titled “Guillaume: A Life.”

In this candid memoir, he shared his personal experiences and reflections on his remarkable career.

He was known for his activism, particularly on issues related to civil rights and equality.

Guillaume used his platform to advocate for societal change and inspire others to take action.

Robert Guillaume passed away on October 24, 2017, at the age of 89.

His legacy lives on through his unforgettable performances and the impact he made on the entertainment industry.

Guillaume was married twice and had four children.

His commitment to his family was a constant source of strength and inspiration in his life.

Robert Guillaume’s immense talent and contributions to the arts will forever be remembered and cherished.

His captivating presence on stage and screen left an indelible mark on the hearts of audiences worldwide.


Robert Guillaume was not only a talented actor, but also a remarkable individual who left a lasting impact on the entertainment industry. With his groundbreaking roles, mesmerizing performances, and dedication to his craft, he will always be remembered as a legendary figure. From his remarkable portrayal of Benson DuBois to his unforgettable voice work as Rafiki in The Lion King, Guillaume’s talents knew no bounds. Whether on stage, television, or film, he consistently delivered powerful performances that captivated audiences worldwide.

His remarkable journey from humble beginnings to becoming an influential figure in Hollywood is a testament to his incredible determination and talent. Robert Guillaume’s contributions to the world of entertainment will forever be cherished, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of actors.


Q: What is Robert Guillaume best known for?

A: Robert Guillaume is best known for his role as Benson DuBois in the sitcoms “Soap” and “Benson.” He portrayed the character from 1977 to 1986 and received critical acclaim for his performance.

Q: Did Robert Guillaume win any awards?

A: Yes, Robert Guillaume received several awards throughout his career. He won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his role in “Benson.” He also received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for his work as the voice of Rafiki in “The Lion King.

Q: Was Robert Guillaume involved in any charitable work?

A: Yes, Robert Guillaume was actively involved in charitable work. He supported various organizations, including the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Guillaume also served as a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.

Q: Did Robert Guillaume have any notable film roles?

A: Yes, Robert Guillaume had several notable film roles. He appeared in movies such as “Lean on Me” (1989) alongside Morgan Freeman and “Big Fish” (2003) directed by Tim Burton.

Q: What impact did Robert Guillaume have on the entertainment industry?

A: Robert Guillaume made a significant impact on the entertainment industry through his groundbreaking roles. He broke barriers as Benson DuBois, a complex African-American character, in a time when diversity on television was limited. Guillaume’s talent and success paved the way for greater representation and opportunities for actors of color.

Robert Guillaume's remarkable life and career continue to inspire, leaving us eager to explore more fascinating stories. From the surprising properties of soap to the extraordinary legacy of Tom Benson, there's no shortage of intriguing tales waiting to be discovered. And for those captivated by the world of entertainment, a closer look at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards promises to deliver even more compelling insights. So, whether you're a fan of Guillaume's work or simply love learning about the people and things that shape our world, keep reading – you never know what you might uncover next!

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