R.I.P. Robert Guillaume, 89, Emmy-Award Winning Actor and Star of “Benson”

Robert Guillaume (CREDIT: AP)

Richard Natale via variety.com

Emmy Award-winning actor Robert Guillaume, best known as the title character in the TV sitcom “Benson,” died Tuesday. He was 89.

His wife Donna Brown Guillaume told the Associated Press he died at their Los Angeles home of complications of prostate cancer. Guillaume often played acerbic, dry-witted, but ultimately lovable characters like the butler Benson Du Bois, which he created on the 1977 series “Soap,” before his character was spun off in 1979. Guillaume won Emmys both for “Soap” (as supporting actor) and “Benson” (as lead actor).

He was also known as the the voice of Rafiki in “The Lion King,” for which he also won a Grammy for a spoken word recording. “Benson” ran on ABC for seven years until 1986. The show brought Guillaume an Emmy in 1985 for lead actor in a comedy. In the late ’90s he took on the role of Isaac Jaffe, executive producer of a cable sports show on the ABC sitcom “Sports Night,” and continued to perform even after being felled by a stroke.

Guillaume also possessed a powerful, mellifluous voice, which he used most notably to play the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” onstage. After suffering through a period of unemployment during the ’70s, he was cast in an all-black revival of “Guys and Dolls” as Nathan Detroit, which debuted on Broadway in 1977 and secured him a Tony nomination. He also guested during this period on sitcoms such as “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son” and “The Jeffersons,” which led to the supporting role of Benson in “Soap.”

He tried another sitcom in 1989, “The Robert Guillaume Show,” playing a marriage counselor. The series lasted four months before ABC pulled the plug. He returned to singing in 1990 in the Los Angeles production of “Phantom of the Opera” and on Broadway in the lead role of “Cyrano — The Musical” for four months beginning in November 1993. He also performed regularly in concert.

Guillaume was featured in films such as “Meteor Man,” “First Kid” and “Spy Hard.” On television he appeared in the HBO family series “Happily Ever After” and TV movies and miniseries including “Children of the Dust,” “Run for the Dream” and “Pandora’s Clock.” He appeared in Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” in 2003, and then made more frequent bigscreen appearances later in the decade, appearing in the Christian film “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” in 2008; in the thriller “Columbus Circle,” starring Selma Blair, in 2010; and in the small musical dramedy “Satin” in 2011.

Robert Peter Williams was born in St. Louis, Mo., changing his name only after he decided on a career in acting. After completing his schooling he joined the Army in 1945 and was discharged 15 months later. He took on a number of menial jobs while studying nights at St. Louis U. He originally intended to study business but became interested in singing and transferred to Washington U. to study voice and theater. His performance at the 1957 Aspen Music Festival led to an apprenticeship at the Karamu Performing Arts Theater in Cleveland, where he appeared in operas and musical comedies.

After moving to New York, he made his Broadway debut in a 1960 revival of “Finian’s Rainbow” and found regular employment in the chorus of shows like “Fly, Blackbird,” “Golden Boy” and “Porgy and Bess.” In 1972 he took on the title role in the musical “Purlie” and also appeared in the revue “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.”He is survived by his second wife, TV producer Donna Brown Guillaume; one son (another died in 1990); and three daughters.

Source: Robert Guillaume, Star of ‘Benson,’ Dies at 89 – Variety

Dave Chappelle Wins 1st Emmy Award for ‘SNL’ Post-Election Hosting Gig

(photo courtesy NBC)

via eurweb.com

Dave Chappelle won his first Emmy Award on Sunday, thanks to his “Saturday Night Live” hosting debut just days after Donald Trump was elected president. Chappelle’s November 12 “SNL” episode delivered the franchise’s season high in adults 18-49 and total viewers, and the show’s highest 18-49 rating since 2013.

And now, it has delivered Chappelle an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. The comedian won the statuette Sunday in a field that included two other “SNL” hosts: Tom Hanks and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Watch Chappelle’s “SNL” opening monologue below:

Source: Dave Chappelle Wins First Emmy Award for ‘SNL’ Post-Election Hosting Gig | EURweb

FEATURE: Director, Producer and Emmy Award-Winning Actress Regina King Has So Many Stories to Tell

Regina King (Credit: Elizabeth Weinberg for The New York Times)

article by Wesley Morris via nytimes.com

LOS ANGELES — Regina King’s house has a cozy seat at the foot of a hill in a section of the Los Feliz neighborhood here. The house isn’t far from the street but fosters an aura of secluded serenity anyway: A grapefruit tree guards the property. Off the rear patio is a small room with a vintage Pac-Man console and a signed LP of Prince’s “Controversy” on the wall.

On a sunny January morning, Ms. King sat in the kitchen calmly as the finishing touches were being done on her hair and makeup. She was hours from a trip to the Critics’ Choice Awards. Getting dressed would happen later. In the meantime, she wore a black one-piece unitard that unzipped in the front.

It’s easy to imagine this scene playing out regularly in her kitchen. After 30 years in the business, starting as a teenage actor on the NBC sitcom “227” and continuing with a series of notable but supporting film roles, Ms. King has made her mix of hard candor and intense warmth an asset for dramatic television. In 2015, five years after she published a short but action-packed plaint in The Huffington Post criticizing the lack of inclusion at the 2010 Emmys, she won her first Emmy for her work as Aliyah Shadeed, the Muslim-American sister of a murder suspect on John’s Ridley’s ABC anthology series, “American Crime.” Continue reading

Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson Cover Elle Magazine’s ‘Women in TV’ issue

(Elle Magazine)

Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson are in Elle Magazine’s “Women in TV” issue, and they aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to talking about how media has warped our images of women, especially women of color.

Davis said that television and media has warped our perception of female sexuality, saying that TV “lies about women.”

“If you are anywhere above a size 2, you’re not having sex,” Davis said. “You don’t have sexual thoughts. You may not even have a vagina. And if you’re of a certain age, you’re off the table.”

Henson said that it is hard for black characters to be taken seriously, and that perception is something she has had to fight when she plays the character of Cookie Lyon on Empire.

“It was very important to me that she not be sassy and neck-rollin’ and eye-bulgin’ and attitude all the time,” said Henson. “Everything she does is coming from a place of fighting for her family. That’s why she’s not a caricature.”

article via thegrio.com

Happy 47th Birthday, Comedian, Writer and Actor Chris Rock

Chris RockBrooklyn, NY native Christopher Julius “Chris Rock” III was born on February 7, 1965 and began to build his stand-up career by working at New York City’s Catch a Rising Star in the 1980s, earning small parts in movies like Beverly Hills Cop II and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and landing a featured role on NBC’s late-night comedy juggernaut Saturday Night Live in 1990.  Rock went on to write and star in rap mockmentary CB4 before re-inventing himself through a series of HBO comedy specials starting with 1996’s Emmy Award-winning Bring the Pain.  Rock later went on to produce the television show Everybody Hates Chris for UPN/CW and star in feature films such as Death at a Funeral, Down to Earth, The Longest Yard and I Think I Love My Wife.  To learn more about his life and career, click here.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Lynn Whitfield To Be Honored w/ Pan African Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award

The Pan African Film Festival will honor award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield with its highest honor, a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in television and film. The award will be presented at the annual Night of Tribute, which will be part of the pre-show festivities for the awards ceremony of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). The event will be held on Friday, February 8, 2013 in Hollywood, California. The Night of Tribute honors world-renowned actors, filmmakers, community leaders and fine artists for their contributions on stage, television, film, the arts and the community.

With more than 30 years in the entertainment industry, Whitfield vaulted to international fame in the HBO biopic, “The Josephine Baker Story,” portraying the legendary international icon. Her performance – after all, who can forget the Banana Dance — nabbed her a Golden Globe nomination and an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special or Miniseries,” giving Whitfield “the greatest sense of accomplishment and realization of my vision,” she says.

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