Drake's body was found Thursday in his Los Angeles-area home by a friend, said Charles Edward Pogue, himself a longtime friend and collaborator of Drake's.
The cause of death was not immediately known. The heavyset actor had suffered from health issues related to his weight, said Steven Siebert, Drake's manager for 30 years.
Drake was proud of a career that spanned TV, film and stage, including the 1990 movie "Darkman," Siebert said. He earned Emmys in 1988 and 1989 for playing office worker Benny on the "L.A. Law" drama series.
In a 1989 interview with The Associated Press, Drake said he portrayed Benny not as a stereotype but as a man with a full range of emotions.
"And that seems to surprise people - that (such) characters can feel as much as they feel, and note as much as they note," he said.
Pogue recalled his friend as "one of a kind" and far different from the roles in which he was often cast, including villains and, at least twice, characters named Bubba.
"He was very learned, well-read and intellectual," Pogue said, and a great wit and storyteller who was often the last to leave a party.
Although Drake sometimes chafed at being typecast, Pogue said, he appreciated the opportunities he had. Their projects included writing a mystery-comedy play, "Whodunnit, Darling?"
Drake, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, recently had focused on teaching acting, Siebert said.
Details on survivors were not immediately available.