Robert Guillaume, Voice of Lion King’s Rafiki and Star of Benson, Dies at 89

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Robert Guillaume. Photo: M. Phillips/WireImage

Emmy-winning actor Robert Guillaume has died, according to Variety. The actor was 89. Guillaume rose to fame as a star of ABC’s Soap and its spinoff Benson, in which Guillaume played a white family’s sarcastic butler, Benson DuBois. Guillaume won a pair of Emmys for his lead and supporting performances on the sitcoms. He later played the beloved boss Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night. In film, Guillaume voiced the wise but loony mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King and its sequels. He won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for his work on a Lion King read-along book in 1995. He also narrated the HBO series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, which retold famous fairy tales with diverse casts and cultures. After supporting roles in Lean on Me, Spy Hard, and Big Fish, Guillaume’s final film role was in 2012’s Columbus Circle. Onstage, Guillaume made his Broadway debut in the ’60s and earned a 1977 Tony nomination for best actor in a revival of Guys and Dolls. Guillaume, born Robert Williams in St. Louis, is survived by his wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume, a son, and three daughters.

Robert Guillaume, Voice of Lion King’s Rafiki, Dies at 89