- Category : Entertainment-Comedy
- Type : GE
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (44,59)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Planning 4
American TV and musical stage actor, who won two Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actor in "Soap" and Best Actor in "Benson." Blessed with a beautiful singing voice, Guillaume feels at home on the Broadway stage as well as in front of the television cameras.
Guillaume was born in the ghetto of St. Louis, Missouri. He never knew his father and his mother was an absent alcoholic. His loving grandmother worked hard as a domestic to raise the boy on her own. Despite ghetto hardships during the Depression, Guillaume was encouraged to keep his dreams alive. His strict and devoted Catholic grandmother sent him to parochial school where he excelled in his studies and carried a natural beautiful singing voice. At ten, Guillaume began to feel negative racial messages from some of his teachers and peers. His self-esteem and confidence were kept alive by the instrumental encouragement of his grandmother and he used his anger over the racial slurs to propel him in his life.
After U.S. Army service, Guillaume (GEE-as in geese-yome) enrolled in business courses at St. Louis University. It was in his late 20s when he decided to pursue his dreams and study voice at Washington University. He won a scholarship to the Aspen Music Festival school from Met Opera singer Laslo Chabay. He apprenticed at Cleveland's Karamu Theater and went to New York to land a small role in the Broadway musical "Free and Easy." He appeared in the stage performance of "Carousel," and won a Tony nomination and good reviews in the off-Broadway production of "Guys and Dolls." He handled his auditions and rejections with confidence and a strong regal bearing knowing that he would succeed in show business.
In 1977, after various TV guest appearances, Guillaume had his breakthrough as the acerbic butler to the Tate family in the demented comedy satire, "Soap." He won an Emmy award for best supporting actor in a comedy series that helped to spin off his own TV series "Benson," playing the title role. Guillaume won another Emmy award for his character, this time as Best Actor in a Comedy Series. In the 1980s, his show ran for seven years and he continued to tour Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In 1990, with critical acclaim Guillaume played the lead in the Los Angeles production "The Phantom of the Opera." In 1998, he returned to the ABC network with "Sports Night."
Guillaume married and had two sons, Kevin and Jacques. He separated from his family when he first moved to New York, and did not reunite with his boys until they reached their early 20s and joined him in Los Angeles. Guillaume admitted problems in his father-son relationship to the younger son, Jacques. He accepted Jacques' homosexuality but his son hid from him the fact that he contracted the AIDS virus. On Christmas 1988, Guillaume confronted his son with his suspicions and was devastated to learn the truth. During his father's triumphal run as the Phantom on the Los Angeles stage, 33 year old Jacques died of AIDS on 23 December 1990.
Guillaume married a second time, to Donna Brown, a TV producer, and the couple have a daughter, Rachel. He has learned to be a more attentive father to his young child.
Guillaume's production company, Longridge Enterprises develops projects that reflect the history and reality of the African-American experience for public television broadcasts. He declares, "I'll never forget where I came from and how I got here." In reference to bigotry, he said, "The secret is to use anger...to focus it and generate creative energy from it."
On 14 January 1999, Guillaume suffered a mild stroke on the set of "Sports Night," in Burbank, CA. After two days in the hospital, he was sent home under orders to take time off to fully recover. Thanks to physical therapy and a regimen of Shakespeare soliloquies, the actor was back to work in four months. When he returned to the set, the show incorporated his stroke as part of the story line. When Guillaume, aided by a cane, appeared as a presenter at the 1999 Emmys, he drew a standing ovation for fighting back and being a survivor.
In his autobiography, "A Life," Guillaume does not shy away from his dark side with a history that includes turning his back on four children from three different women. A high IQ helped him to find his way our of difficult circumstance and improve his lot. He married his current wife, TV producer Donna Brown, in 1984; they have a 14-year-old daughter.
Guillaume died of prostate cancer on 24 October 2017 in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 89.