Robert Guillaume
National Visionary

Born November 30, 1927 in St. Louis, Missouri

Veteran of stage, screen and television; best known for his role as TV’s Benson

Veteran of stage, screen and television for more than 40 years, Robert Guillaume has endeared himself to millions across America with his humorous, frequently satirical, but always uniquely memorable, character portrayal.

Robert Guillaume was born Robert Williams on November 30, 1927 in St. Louis, Missouri. In one of his earliest Broadway roles, Guillaume sparked some controversy when he replaced Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original Phantom of the Opera (Michael Crawford). Some persons asked that their money be returned upon learning of the replacement. However, Guillaume went on to win wide acclaim from audiences and critics alike for his sterling performances. Guillaume also reprised a number of other stellar Broadway performances during the ensuing years.

Guillaume as a young man

This interview has
been archived in the
NVLP Collection of
African American
Oral Histories at the
Library of Congress
American Folklife
Over the course of his career, Guillaume has been as widely hailed for his television roles as for his Broadway performances. In particular, his portrayal of the wise-cracking, back-talking butler, Benson, in the television series, Soap, won for him an Emmy. The role later resulted in a spin-off television series of the same name. Guillaume’s delivery of the humorous, yet delightfully refreshing digs against the elite and pompous airs of the well-to-do became staples in the homes of American television audiences. His television appearances began with the history- making “Julia,” in 1969 and aside from his own starring roles, ran the gamut from hit situation comedies like “It’s a Different World,” in the 80’s, to action packed mysteries like “Diagnosis Murder” in the 90’s.

While working for the television show, Sports Night, Guillaume suffered a stroke and has made a point of enjoying life to the fullest since being stricken so suddenly and unexpectedly with the illness. His stroke was written into the storyline.

His most recent films include Superfly: The Ron O’Neal Story: The E! True Hollywood Story (2002); Land Before Time VIII: The Big Freeze, (2002) (voice); 13th Child, Legend of the Jersey Devil (2001); and the Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina (2002) (voice)


Robert Guillaume's Wikipedia Page

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