Former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the job-shaming he experienced after photos of him working at Trader Joe’s recently made headlines.
Last week, UK tabloid The Daily Mail ran a story on Owens with the headline, “From Learning Lines to Serving the Long Line!” derisively highlighting Owens’ job. A subsequent Fox News article helped turn Owens’ story into unlikely viral fodder.
“I was really devastated, but the period of devastation was so short,” Owens, who portrayed Elvin Tibideaux on Cosby Show from 1985 to 1992, told GMA. “My wife and I started to read these responses from literally all over the world of support. Fortunately, the shame part didn’t last very long. It hurt, but then [after the support], it’s amazing, so.”
Owens, who had been working at Trader Joe’s for 15 months (he told GMA he quit after experiencing backlash), said the position afforded him the flexibility to pursue acting jobs. He has recently appeared in The Affair and Divorce and Elementary as well as taught at Yale University.
After the photos went viral with some portraying his job in a negative light, he received an outpouring of support, including notes from Patton Oswalt, Patricia Heaton and Tyler Perry among numerous actors and fans.
“My respect to actor Geoffrey Owens, who found honest work between gigs,” Oswalt tweeted, calling out one of the organizations who shared the photo. “As @FoxNews will tell you, all actors, when not acting, seal themselves in protein-solution ‘shame pods’ until re-activated by the Council of Casting. Geoffrey had the courage to stand up to the Council.”
Heaton also questioned why people would shame anyone for working. “Again, why is this news? When I worked on ‘Thirtysomething’ I was also summarizing depositions to pay my rent. Why are you trying to humiliate this honorable, hardworking actor? Shame on you!,” she wrote. “#GeoffreyOwens – many blessings are coming your way!”
Tyler Perry appeared to offer the actor a gig. “#GeoffreyOwens I’m about to start shootings OWN’s number one drama next week! Come Join us!!!,” he tweeted. “I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs. The measure of a true artist.”
“It’s really overwhelming in a good way,” Owens said of the support. “It came out of nowhere. I really want to thank everybody out there – family, friends, the Hollywood community and the general public – for the incredible support, the amazing support and positivity that they’ve shown for me. It’s quite astounding. It’s very encouraging.”
Owens said he hopes after what he experienced that people will respect “the honor of the working person and the dignity of work.”
“Every job is worthwhile and valuable,” Owens said. “I’ve had a great life, I’ve had a great career … So no one has to feel sorry for me, I’m doing fine.”