‘Cosby’ actor Geoffrey Owens quits NJ Trader Joe’s after shaming online
CLIFTON — Almost three decades after "The Cosby Show" went off the air one, of the former stars says he has gained more fame — unwelcome fame, at that — in the past week due to a picture on social media than he did in several seasons on TV.
A picture of Geoffrey Owens working at the Clifton Trader Joe's went viral over the holiday weekend. Many people said the reaction by some posters, and in articles by the Daily Mail and Fox News, amounted to job shaming for the actor.
"Wearing an ID badge bearing his name, the former star wore a Trader Joe's T-shirt with stain marks on the front as he weighed a bag of potatoes," the Daily Mail wrote.
Owens, a Montclair resident, appeared on Good Morning America on Tuesday and said after 15 months working at the store he decided to quit because of all the attention he was gaining.
Owens said having worked at the store for more than a year, there were often customers that recognized him but did not make a big deal about it. He also said that while he was surprised and "devastated" by the reaction to the pictures, he was encouraged to see all the support he got for doing what he had to do to provide for his family.
"It's really overwhelming in a good way. I kind of feel like that character in the Woody Allen movie who wakes up and he's a celebrity all of a sudden and has no idea where it came from," he told GMA's Robin Roberts.
The Screen Actor's Guild and several actors — not to mention, everyday Twitter users — came to Owens' defense, noting in a Tweet that several actors work multiple jobs to fill in the gaps between acting roles.
Owens told Roberts that one of the reasons he was glad to work at Trader Joe's was that the store gave him the flexibility to pursue other acting jobs and then come back to the store. He'd played Elvin, the son-in-law of the Cosby family from 1985-1992, but Owens' IMDB page shows him working on several projects in post-production, and having acted on recent shows including Blue Bloods, Divorce and The Affair.
And while he said he has already seen an increase in interest for him to work, Owens said he does not want to get a job based solely on this event.
He also said he hoped his experience would help other people take a new look at the value of working a job.
Actor and director Tyler Perry took to Twitter to offer Owens a job on a project he is working on. Perry said he has "so much respect for people who hustle between gigs," and called that "the measure of a true artist."
"My being the Cosby guy that got shamed for working at Trader Joe's, that's going to pass," Owens said. "I hope what doesn't pass is this idea that people are rethinking what it means to work. The honor of the working person and the dignity of work."
"There is no job that's better than another job. It might pay better. It might have better benefits. It might look better on a resume and on paper, but it's actually not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable. If we have a rethinking about that because of what's happened to me, that would be great," Owens said.
Having worked in Hollywood for more than 30 years, Owens said he has "had a career that most people would die for," and that "nobody has to feel sorry for me. I'm doing fine."
More From New Jersey 101.5