A former Cosby Show actor is speaking out after a photograph surfaced showing him working at a grocery store in what many perceived as an attempt to shame him for his job.
Actor Geoffrey Owens spoke with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts Tuesday after images of him working at a local Trader Joe’s were shared widely online, drawing job-shaming comments and widespread pickup from media outlets. But not long after the photos went viral, other commentators and fellow actors started flooding Owens with support, empathy and stories from their own careers.
“I was really devastated,” Owens said, “But the period of devastation was so short.”
The incident, Owens said, shed light on “what it means to work” and the “dignity” of it. “There is no job that is better than another job. It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper,” Owens, who wore his Trader Joe’s name badge during the interview, said. “But actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable, and if we have a rethinking about that because of what has happened to me, that would be great.”
Owens says he began working at Trader Joe’s just over a year ago to help make ends meet. The former Cosby Show actor has been acting, directing and teaching those two crafts for more than 30 years, and “it got to a point where it just didn’t add up enough,” he said. At the grocery store, patrons would recognize Owens every day — and “they were very, very cool about it,” he told Good Morning America.
Indeed, working several jobs to make ends meet is no rarity for actors and artists — as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists highlighted in a tweet on Labor Day in support of Owens. The union encouraged actors to share their own stories on Twitter with the hashtag #ActorsWithDayJobs, and actors and those in other fields shared their stories of working multiple jobs for years to support themselves and their families.
While Owens said the incident has sparked interest in him for future acting gigs, he maintained that he would only be interested in pursuing opportunities he earned on merit alone.
“No one should feel sorry for me, either from a positive or negative perspective,” Owens said. “I’ve had a great life, I’ve had a great career, I’ve had a career that most actors would really die for. No one has to feel sorry for me; I’m doing fine.”