Robert Guillaume – the Rough Ride of a Smooth Actor

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  • Topic: Robert Guillaume, Actor, Lean on Me
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  • Published : February 25, 2007
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Robert Guillaume – The Rough Ride of a Smooth Actor

Mark Miller

Actor Robert Guillaume is a man without regrets. Well, maybe one. "I always wanted to be able to play the piano & never succeeded. I was a total bust. I had an inability to practice, and when I did practice, no amount of practice made me play better or sound better. And I blame the Catholic Church for screwing up my sense of music." The Catholic Church? But isn't the Church known for its music? Guillaume elaborates.

"It wasn't just my ability they screw up – they screw up everybody's ability to be themselves. They're well known for it. In fact, I blame the Catholic Church for anything I can't do that tradition says I should be able to do. I blame them for egregiously screwing up my ability to relax and just let it happen. I was under the tutelage of the nuns and priests – and they made us feel that everything was our fault. Tremendous guilt complex, second only to that of the Jews. Being Jewish, you have a complex the size of Montana – and the Catholics have the same thing. It's almost as though, when I was growing up, ‘If you hadn't done this thing, Red China would now be in the U.N.'"

While Woodland Hills resident Guillaume is perhaps best known and admired for his indelible, Emmy Award-winning roles on the TV sit-com hits "Benson" and "Soap," the actor has had a distinguished, nearly half-century long career spanning TV, feature films, theater, voice-over work, producing, and directing.

A performer of seemingly endless range, Guillaume has portrayed, in addition to his beloved comedic roles on TV, the Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera," the voice of Rafiki in "The Lion King," Purlie in the musical "Purlie," for which he won a Tony Award, a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Nathan Detroit in a revival of "Guys and Dolls," nominations for various Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Image Awards, and has made memorable guest-starring appearances on both...
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