Robert Peter Williams, famous as Robert Guillaume who came into the spotlight as Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night and as Benson on the TV series Soap, died on Tuesday, October 24 of prostate cancer in Los Angeles.
Robert Guillaume died at the age of 89. The Emmy Award-winning actor born in St. Louis on November 30, 1927, made theater history for appearing in the role Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls.
Guillaume was the first African-American actor who got a chance to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera in a white production, succeeding Michael Crawford.
Robert Guillaume was born as Robert Peters Williams, but later he changed his surname to its French translation to try something different. In his autography, Guillaume: A Life, he revealed that he was raised by his grandmother after his alcoholic and prostitute mother rejected him because of dark skin.
Guillaume studied at St. Louis University and Washington University and later served in the U.S Army. He began his acting career in the Cleveland theater troupe the Karamu players troupe after he completed his education.
In 1959, Guillaume toured with the Broadway musical Free and Easy and made his Broadway debut in 1961 in the play Kwamina. Later, he featured in the plays Tambourines to Glory and Golden Boy and appeared in Finian's Rainbow, Purlie, and Porgy and Bess.
For his incredible skills, he grabbed a nomination for a Tony Awards for Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in 1976. He made his guest appearances on Good Times, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons which helped him to become a cast member of ABC series Soap.
Guillaume appeared from 1977 to 1979 in Soap as butler Benson Du Bois which later changed into its own series. The series ran from 1979 to 1986. He grabbed a Supporting Actor Emmy for Soap and a Lead Actor Emmy for Benson. in 1987, he appeared in the film Lean on Me alongside Morgan Freeman.
Guillaume is the only black American actor to win an Emmy awards in a comedy series. He also won a Spoken Word Grammy Award in the year 1994 for his role as Rafiki in animated film movie The Lion King. He even won four NAACP Image Awards.
Guillaume played as TV executive Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night from 1998 to 2000. While making the show, he suffered a stroke and took three weeks to return to the show. He was survived by his wife, Donna Brown, and daughter, Rachel.