October 24, 2017

RIP Robert Guillaume, 89 – Voice of The Lion King’s Rafiki Has Passed Away On Tuesday Oct 24th. 😒

The Sun, UK
written by Ellie Cambridge
Tuesday October 24, 2017

THE actor best known for voicing Rafiki in The Lion King and for his role in sitcom Benson has died.

Robert Guillaume's wife confirmed he died at his LA home today aged 89, after battling prostate cancer.

He was born in 1927, in St. Louis, one of four children. His mother named him Robert Peter Williams but when he became a performer he adopted Guillaume, a French version of Williams.

In his career he took on the beloved character of mandrill Rafiki in Disney's 1994 animation, and became the first African-American to sing the title role of Phantom of the Opera, appearing with an all-white cast in LA.

Among his achievements was playing Nathan Detroit in the first all-black version of Guys and Dolls, earning a Tony nomination in 1977.

While playing in Guys and Dolls, he was asked to test for the role of a butler of a governor's mansion in Soap, a primetime TV sitcom that satirised soap operas.

The character became so popular that ABC launched a spin-off, simply called Benson which lasted from 1979 to 1986, and gave him one of his best known roles.

Guillaume's career almost ended in January 1999 at Walt Disney Studio - he collapsed during an appearance in the TV series Sports Night.

"I fell on the floor, and I couldn't get up," he told an interviewer in 2001. "I kept floundering about on the floor and I didn't know why I couldn't do it. I didn't know it was it was caused by my left side being weaker than the other."

The 71-year-old actor was rushed to hospital and treated for a stroke the result of a blood clot that blocked circulation of blood to the brain.

Guillaume's stroke was minor, causing relatively slight damage and little effect on his speech. After six weeks in the hospital, he underwent a therapy of walks and sessions in the gym.

He resumed his career and travelled as a new spokesman for the American Stroke Association. He also made appearance for the American Heart Association.

Guillaume had two sons from his first marriage to Marlene Williams, and a daughter with second wife Donna Brown.

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