Just because someone’s a celebrity doesn’t mean they’re set for life. Landing a role on a hit TV show is a one-in-a-million opportunity and replicating that success is an even rarer feat.
Karma Lawrence, 50, was astonished when she saw Geoffrey Owens, 57, bagging groceries at her local Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey.
Owens played Cliff Huxtable’s (Bill Cosby) son-in-law, Doctor Elvin Tibideaux, on “The Cosby Show” from 1985 to 1992. Since, he has worked consistently as a guest star on numerous TV shows including: “Law & Order,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Lucifer.”
When I look at this picture of Geoffrey Owens, the only things that come to my mind are courage, humility and dedication. Very few artists, especially actors, can fully support themselves in their craft. Taking honest, hard work to offset those dry periods is honorable. pic.twitter.com/tql80NegJt
— Aharon Rabinowitz (@ABAOProductions) September 2, 2018
Lawrence snapped a few photos of Owens and they ran in a story published in the Daily Mail.
“It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did,” Lawrence told the Daily Mail. “It made me feel really bad. I was like, ‘Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.’ ”
Images of Owens looking uncomfortable while being photographed on-the-job quickly went viral. Countless news organizations ran “where are they now” stories on Owens that seemed to ridicule his new job.
The photos and stories inspired a social media backlash.
I love #GeoffreyOwens for holding it down at TJ in between gigs. People can get so embarrassed and caught up about not being a full-time entertainer. I still do freelance PR every day to barely pay my bills and keep hustling in music.
— Jeffery Austin (@JefferyAustin) September 4, 2018
Owens had to quit his job at Trader Joe’s because of the unwanted attention.
On Tuesday, September 4, Owens appeared on “Good Morning America” to share how the initial ridicule evolved into something very positive.
FULL INTERVIEW: @GMA EXCLUSIVE — "There's no job better than another…every job is worthwhile…" Actor Geoffrey Owens speaks out, responding to job shaming and backlash after a photo of him working at a grocery store was posted online: https://t.co/0wZJnpowI9 pic.twitter.com/aNiG5fV2yf
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 4, 2018
“I was really devastated, but the period of devastation was so short,” Owens told “Good Morning America” while proudly wearing his Trader Joe’s name tag.
“My wife and I started to read these responses from literally all over the world. Fortunately, the shame part didn’t last very long,” he said.
Some of those responses came from people in the entertainment industry.
— terrycrews (@terrycrews) September 2, 2018
#GeoffreyOwens I’m about to start shootings OWN’s number one drama next week! Come join us!!! I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs. The measure of a true artist.
— Tyler Perry (@tylerperry) September 4, 2018
Owens told “Good Morning America” that working at Trader Joe’s was a positive experience because it allowed him to continue pursuing acting roles.
“I had been teaching acting, directing for 30-plus years, but it got to a point where it just didn’t add up enough,” Owens said. “I wanted a job that had some flexibility [to] stay in the business.”
Trader Joe’s provides its employees with flexible schedules to encourage their health and well-being.
Owens hopes his story has caused people to realize that all work is noble, regardless of pay or status. “Every job is worthwhile and valuable,” he said.
The actor, who starred on an episode of “Elementary” earlier this year, says he’s been contacted about acting jobs, but hopes to earn them through successful auditions, not sympathy.