Robert Guillaume—The Voice Of Rafiki In ‘The Lion King’—Has Died

Rest in peace.

Actor Robert Guillaume, best known for his title role in the TV series “Benson,” died Oct. 24 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

His wife Donna Guillaume told CNN he had battled prostate cancer in recent years.

“He kinda went the way everyone wishes they could, surrounded by love and in his sleep,” Guillaume said.

Premiere Of Walt Disney Studios' 'The Lion King 3D' - Red Carpet
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Guillaume’s Long, Successful Career

She added that her husband really loved making music, entertaining and making people laugh. He treasured his role as Rafiki in Disney’s 1994 animated film “The Lion King,” she said.

Guillaume starred as the level-headed butler Benson DuBois on the sitcom “Benson” from 1979 – 1986. He won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a comedy for his performance in the role in 1985.

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Dozens of TV roles followed, including turns on “A Different World” and “Sports Night.”

Guillaume was born Robert Peter Williams in St. Louis, and he served in the Army before becoming an actor. Guillaume is survived by four children, all of whom had spent time visiting with their father in his final weeks, Donna Guillaume—his wife of 31 years—said.

“He was a good father and a good husband,” she added. “He was a great, great person.”

Celebs Pay Tribute On Social Media

Director Ava DuVernay honored his work onscreen and applauded his offscreen early efforts to support AIDS fundraising.

Actress Jackee Harry called him a “fierce actor whose wisdom knew no bounds.”

As a young actor, funnyman Billy Crystal worked with Guillaume on the set of “Soap,” the sitcom that ended up spinning off into Guillaume’s own sitcom “Benson.” Crystal noted his support, acting skills and class.

Josh Gad, the voice of “Olaf” the snowman from “Frozen,” called Guillaume “the legend.”

TV powerhouse Shonda Rhimes wrote about his talent heading into “silence.”

Actor and social media maven George Takei honored Guillaume’s “light” and “laughter.”


Written by Cheri Mossburg for CNN with additional reporting by Simplemost staff.

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