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Will Robinson
March 17, 2016 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Larry Drake, the actor best known for his award-winning role on L.A. Law, died Thursday in his Los Angeles home, according to his manager Steven Siebert. He was 66 years old.

“He was a great person,” screenwriter and friend Charles Pogue tells EW, “genuine sweet, smart, gentle man. A very loyal, good friend.”

Drake was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Feb. 21, 1950. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oklahoma.

He began his professional acting career in 1971, playing bit parts in movies and TV. Drake landed a role on the former NBC drama L.A. Law as Benny Stulwicz, the developmentally disabled office messenger. Benny evolved as a recurring character in season 2 to a series regular through the rest of the show’s eight-season run. His performance garnered back-to-back Emmys for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1988 and 1989.

“How many actors could do what he did with Benny in L.A. Law?” Siebert says.

Drake, who was also known for his villainous turn as Durant in the cult classic Darkman with Liam Neeson, beared little resemblance to the characters he played in his two biggest roles, Siebert and Pogue noted, describing the actor as a kind intellectual. In recent years, Drake acted less but focused more on teaching the art form.

Drake had struggled with physical ailments during the last few years and faced health problems related to his weight, according to Siebert; Pogue says Drake had told him he was in the hospital earlier this year.

TMZ first reported the news.

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