“He kinda went the way everyone wishes they could, surrounded by love and in his sleep.”
Guillaume became the first black actor to win comedy Emmys. One in 1979 and best actor in a comedy in 1985 for his role as Benson DuBois in the series Benson. He earned six nominations in all for playing the character. Guillaume almost did not take the role, telling Tavis Smiley in a 2002 interview that he wasn’t sure about the part when he first took it.
“I had some misgivings and trepidation that perhaps taking the role of a butler was not the greatest thing I could do. But I’d been in the business for 17 or 18 years, and not a hell of lot had happened. So I said, ‘I’d better get on this train.’ “
Dozens of TV roles followed, including turns on A Different World and Sports Night. His film credits include films such as Seems Like Old Times (1980), Lean on Me(1989), Death Warrant (1990), The Meteor Man (1993), First Kid (1996), Spy Hard(1996) and Big Fish (2003). And he wrote, directed and starred in the 1986 ABC telefilm John Grin’s Christmas.
Guillaume’s lengthy on-screen career tapered off after a mild stroke in 1999 while in his dressing room on the Sports Night set.
“I was fortunate in the sense that the stroke I suffered was not so debilitating that I could not move around with some degree of regularity,” he said in a 2008 interview. “My wife Donna suggested to Aaron that perhaps we could incorporate the stroke into the series and he agreed … it allowed me to come back and not pretend that I had not had a stroke.”
Guillaume voiced the baboon Rafiki in 1994’s The Lion King and its related sequels, video games and TV series. He also won a Grammy in 1995 for best spoken word album for children for his narration on The Lion King Read Along.
Guillaume is survived by his wifeDonna Guillaume, three daughters, Patricia Carpenter and Melissa and Rachel Guillaume; one son, Kevin; four grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and one great-great-granddaughter. He was 89/
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