‘Benson’ Star Robert Guillaume Has Died

Robert Guillaume, star of Soap and Benson, has died at 89 in Los Angeles. He had been battling prostate cancer.

Guillaume was an accomplished theater actor as well, earning a 1977 Tony nomination for his performance of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, and performing in Phantom of the Opera too. 

In Soap, he played the butler, Benson, at the governor’s mansion. 

He starred in the ABC spinoff, Benson, which ran from 1979 to 1986 and had Benson as the wisecracking butler for the dim-witted governor.  

Guillaume later played Isaac Jaffee in ABC drama Sports Night.

His films included The Kid From Left Field, Seems Like Old Times and The Lion King. 

Guillaume was born in St. Louis as Robert Peter Williams. The Associated Press said he took the name Guillaume, a French version of Williams, when he became a performer. 

Guillaume got his start in the arts as an apprentice in theaters in Aspen and Cleveland, and later toured with Broadway shows. 

TV work followed on Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons, among others, before he took on the role of Benson. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.