The Lion King star dies aged 89

The US actor voiced Rafiki in the 1994 Disney animation

Actor Robert Guillaume poses for a portrait at his home in Encino. (Getty, BA)

The Emmy award-winning star of US sitcom Benson and voice of Rafiki in The Lion King, Robert Guillaume, has died at the age of 89.

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The actor passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday after a battle with prostate cancer, his wife Donna Brown confirmed.

he had risen to prominence in the late 1970s for his role as butler Benson DuBois in popular sitcom Soap, and later in his own spin-off Benson, which ran for seven seasons from 1979 to 1986. He became the first black actor to win the Emmy for outstanding acting in a lead role in 1985.

He also became the first black actor to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles in 1990.

For younger generations, he will be remembered as Rafiki, the mandrill in Disney’s 1994 animation The Lion King.

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Tributes for the star have poured out on social media in the wake of the announcement: