Matthew Cowles, a character actor best known for his role as Billy Clyde Tuggle on the soap opera “All My Children,” died of congestive heart failure in New York City on May 22. He was 69.
Cowles was married to “The Good Wife’s” Christine Baranski.
Cowles made a career of playing villains who come to a bad end. He often joked that he “made a living dying.” He will be best remembered for his portrayal of Tuggle, the pimp who terrorized the town of Pine Valley on ABC’s “All My Children.” His work on the soap opera spanned four decades, as his role recurred throughout the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and again in 2013, when the show was temporarily resurrected. The role garnered Cowles a daytime Emmy nomination.
Other memorable roles for Cowles included Monkey John, whom he portrayed in the TV miniseries “Lonesome Dove” (1989), and a schizophrenic homeless man named Lemonhead in an episode of “Law & Order” (1991). Other film and television credits include “Midnight Cowboy,” “Slap Shot,” “The World According to Garp,” “Eddie Macon’s Run,” “The Money Pit,” “The Juror,” “Nurse Betty” and, recently, “Shutter Island.”
Cowles also had an extensive stage career. He made his Broadway debut in 1966, starring in the world premier of Edward Albee’s “Malcolm.” In 1968 he played alongside Al Pacino in Israel Horovitz’s “The Indian Wants the Bronx.” Cowles also co-starred with Christopher Walken in “Kid Champion” and “Sweet Bird of Youth,” both in 1975. He made his last New York stage appearance in 2012 in “Taming of the Shrew” at the Theatre for a New Audience.
In addition, Cowles wrote three plays: “Mexican Standoff at Fat Squaw Springs,” “Our Daily Bread” and “Noblesse Oblige.” He also wrote a series of short stories and songs recounting his 50 years as an avid motorcyclist.
Born in New York City, Cowles was the son of Broadway producer Chandler Cowles and studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
When he married Baranski, he drove her away from the country church where they wed on a black BMW motorcycle named Lucifer. They met doing Ibsen’s “Ghosts” in 1981 and worked together again in “Hedda Gabler” (1987).
In addition to Baranski, to whom he was married for 30 years, Cowles is survived by two daughters, Isabel Murphy and Lily Cowles, and by a grandson, Max Francis Murphy.