"I'm an actor who sings," says multi-talented Robert Guillaume, who played Benson, the sharp-witted employee of the Tate family in Soap, the half-hour comedy series and then in his own show Benson.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 30, Guillaume received his first musical influence while serving as an altar boy. He dabbled in musical production in grammar and high school. Guillaume entered St. Louis University to pursue a career in business administration, but after transferring to Washington University he met his first important professional influence -- voice teacher, Leslie Chabay. Recognizing Robert's outstanding qualities as a classical singer, Chabay was instrumental in getting him a scholarship to a music festival in Aspen, Colorado.
It was in Aspen that he was heard by Russell and Rowena Jelliffe, founders of the Karamu Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the oldest interracial theatres. At Karamu, he apprenticed and performed in operas and musicals. When Guillaume made his debut as Billy Bigelow in "Carousel," he was applauded by Oscar Hammerstein.
Guillaume has been performing steadily ever since. In 1976 he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role of Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. Among his other Broadway roles are, the lead in Purlie and Eddie Satin in Golden Boy. Robert appeared in such plays as, Kwaminia, Bambouche, Tambourines to Glory, Othello, Porgy and Bess, Finian's Rainbow, Apple Pie and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Prior to starting production on Soap, he appeared in Don Juan at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
A frequent guest star on television, Guillaume has appeared on The Jeffersons, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Marcus Welby and S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous, S'Gershwin.
Guillaume is the father of two sons, Kevin and Jacques, who have a recording group in St. Louis. The brown-eyed actor maintains a residence in New York with "lots of sunshine, plants and a mish-mosh of furniture tending toward African bush motif." His hobbies include playing the piano and guitar and writing.