57-year-old Geoffrey Owens, who gained fame nearly three decades ago playing Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, was recently “exposed” for working at Trader Joe’s grocery store by some fans and now people are speaking out about how that bit of information was presented.
Karma Lawrence (50) and her wife Yanelle (40) recognized Geoffrey at while grocery shopping and snapped some photos and sold their photos to a news agency and The Daily Mail picked up the story. Lawrence is quoted at being shocked that the actor works as a store clerk after being on a huge sitcom and notes that she feels bad for him.
This take has caused many actors and others to speak out about the realities of working in showbiz and question the narrative. For some maybe it doesn’t make sense that someone who played a prominent character on a television show might work at a grocery store decades later, but the situation is not that simple. The approach to this bit of information seems to imply that it’s shameful for someone who achieved prominence in this creative field to be working a “regular” job, but is this really how this type of situation should be viewed?
“I would have thought after The Cosby Show he would maybe be doing something different,” Lawrence is quoted as saying. “It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did. It made me feel really bad. I was like, “Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.” It’s like as a casual viewer we build up a social caste in our head when it comes to people we view as celebrities and can find it hard to distinguish between the fantasy world of fame and who people really are as humans. The photo and story spread very quickly because it hits a psychological nerve with us.
Actress Pamela Adlon pointed out the inconsistencies of trying to find work, even after achieving a bit of fame. Even if your name and face are still recognizable after a boost like this, it doesn’t guarantee steady income. She’s found work in retail and flower shops to make ends meet in between acting gigs.
I had been a working actor for years. Jobs stopped, as they do. I worked in retail. At a flower shop. I passed out flyers. It’s about the work. Work gives you pride and purpose. Your visibility as an actor never goes away. But the money sure does. #geoffreyowens pic.twitter.com/BBzZaBrGBx
— Pamela Adlon (@pamelaadlon) September 2, 2018
Geoffrey, who graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1983 worked on The Cosby Show as Sondra Huxtable’s husband Elvin from 1985 and 1992. Since then he appeared in episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and That’s So Raven .
Geoffrey is still a working actor in the industry he recently appeared in an episode of Lucifer, and he also teaches acting classes. Retail jobs can offer flexibility to people also pursuing work creative fields that a salaried full-time position just can’t offer.
A few months ago a young acting student of Geoffrey shared a beautiful testimony about her time in his class. “Thank you Geoffrey Owens for being an incredible teacher, mentor, and forever friend,” she wrote in a caption next to a photo of them together. “You keep holding that mirror up and forcing me to see myself for who I truly am and I love you dearly for that.”
Television images often times serve as our mirrors, showing us the good, the bad, the most possible versions of ourselves. The truth. As a child this man and the entire cast of The Cosby Show took me on a journey and allowed me to see a world outside of my own. As an adult having studied under this great human being, has been nothing short of amazing. Allowing me to dream, stretch, create, and be my truest most authentic artistic self. Thank you Geoffrey Owens for being an incredible teacher, mentor, and forever friend. You keep holding that mirror up and forcing me to see myself for who I truly am and I love you dearly for that. #actingclass101 #mentorship #geoffreyowens #dothework #craft
Casting agent Jen Eusten shared on Twitter that this story angered her because she’s a fan of Geoffrey and always thinks of him for parts.
This really pisses me off. I’m a fan of Geoffrey’s & when he’s right for something I always bring him in to read. He’s talented & I think age looks great on him!
Check out his IMDB page. He’s a working actor in NY. But guess what? Actors can’t make living wages like that anymore. https://t.co/a2sLSg68tS
— Jen Euston Casting (@jeneuston) August 31, 2018
Amelia Cunningham is a Starcasm writer and editor