Cowles was born on Sept. 28, 1944 in New York City. He was the son of the late Chandler Cowles, part of the Cowles Publishing family.
He started off on Broadway as the lead in the Edward Albee adaptation of James Purdy’s novel, Malcolm. Cowles went on to star in the 1969 series NYPD. He later landed his breakout role as con artist pimp Billy Clyde Tuggle on AMC in 1977.
Cowles netted two Daytime Emmy Award nominations for the popular role he played initially from 1977-1980, reprising in 1984, 1989-1990 and when AMC moved from television to the Internet in 2013.
In 2010, Cowles nabbed a supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s film Shutter Island. He also wrote the plays Mexican Standoff at Fat Squaw Springs, Noblesse Oblige and Our Daily Bread.
Cowles is survived by his wife, The Good Wife actress Christine Baranski, and their two daughters Isabel and Lily.