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One of my favourite actors - both Soap and Benson were regularly watched in my family's home.

Robert Guillaume, Emmy-winning 'Soap' actor, dies at 89



Robert Guillaume, who rose from squalid beginnings in St. Louis slums to become a star in stage musicals and win Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued butler in the TV sitcoms "Soap" and "Benson," has died at age 89.

Guillaume died at home Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to his widow, Donna Brown Guillaume. He had been battling prostate cancer, she told The Associated Press.

Among Guillaume's achievements was playing Nathan Detroit in the first all-black version of "Guys and Dolls," earning him a Tony nomination in 1977. He became the first African-American to sing the title role of "Phantom of the Opera," in a Los Angeles-based production, and was the voice of the shaman-slash-mandrill Rafiki in the film version of "The Lion King."

Guillaume won a Grammy in 1995 when a read-aloud version of "The Lion King," which he narrated, was cited for best spoken word album for children. He also served as narrator for the animated HBO series "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child," which aired form 1995-2000.

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"The minute I saw the script, I knew I had a live one," he recalled in 2001. "Every role was written against type, especially Benson, who wasn't subservient to anyone. To me, Benson was the revenge for all those stereotyped guys who looked like Benson in the '40s and '50s (movies) and had to keep their mouths shut."

The character became so popular that ABC was persuaded to launch a spinoff, simply called "Benson," which lasted from 1979 to 1986. In the series, the main character went from running the kitchen for a governor to becoming a political aide to eventually becoming lieutenant governor. "Benson" made Guillaume wealthy and famous, but he regretted that his character's wit had to be toned down to make him more appealing as the lead star.

(CTV)​
 

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Sad. I too liked him in his various roles.
 
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