Robert Robert "Bob" Guillaume (born November 30, 1927) is an American stage and television actor, best known for his role as Benson Du Bois on the TV-series Soap and the spin-off Benson , voicing the mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King and as Isaac Jaffe on Sports Night . In a career that has spanned more than 50 years he has worked extensively on stage (including a Tony Award nomination), television (including winning two Emmy Awards), and film.
Robert Guillaume was born as Robert Peter Williams Guillaume is the French form of William in St. Louis , Missouri . He studied at St. Louis University and Washington University and served in the United States Army before pursuing an acting career.
On leaving the university, Robert joined the Karamu Players in Cleveland and performed in musical comedies and opera. He toured the world in 1959 as a cast member of the Broadway musical Free and Easy . He made his Broadway debut in Kwamina in 1961. (A reference on a Columbia LP shows this as "Dwamina".) Other stage appearances included Golden Boy , Tambourines to Glory , Guys and Dolls , for which he received a Tony Award nomination, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris , the Los Angeles production of The Phantom of the Opera (succeeding Michael Crawford in the lead role), and Purlie! . Added roles were in Katherine Dunham’s Bambouche and in Fly The Blackbird . In 1964 he portrayed Sportin’ Life in a revival of Porgy and Bess at New York ‘s City Center. Robert has been a member of the Robert de Cormier Singers, performing in concerts and on television. He has soloed on The Tonight Show . He recorded a LP record, Columbia CS9033, titled Just Arrived as a member of The Pilgrims, a folk trio, with Angeline Butler and Millard Williams.
Some minor controversy was stirred when Guillaume replaced Michael Crawford as The Phantom in the National tour of Phantom of the Opera . Guillaume is the first, and to date only, black actor to assume the role. No recording of his performance exists except for a brief excerpt captured on a Sunday Morning episode on CBS shortly after his debut.