Actor Geoffrey Owens, who played Elvin Tibideaux for several years on The Cosby Show, has been in the spotlight lately after photos emerged of him working at a Trader Joes. The photos were initially presented in an unfavorable light, but soon many actors came to his defense because retail jobs like these are often necessary to survive in the entertainment industry. Many, many others came to Geoffrey’s defense over the dignity of working a job.
Before long Geoffrey was getting jobs offers from prominent people, including Tyler Perry, who tweeted an offer to work on OWN’s The Have and Have Nots, the highest rated show on the network. Geoffrey doesn’t have Twitter, but he did respond via Entertainment Tonight.
#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
Geoffrey told the media outlet that he was encouraged and surprised to read that tweet from Perry. However, if he works with Perry, he wants the job to be granted from merit.
“I don’t expect to be offered things,” he said. “It would be lovely as one of the results of this, some doors open in terms of giving me the opportunity to audition. That, I would appreciate — always, as all actors do. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable being given things as a result of this. I like the idea of, you know, put me in the room with everyone else and see if I’m the right one for the job.”
Geoffrey also appeared on Good Morning America this morning and related through the emotions he went through during this experience. He also hopes that his story helps change people’s perception of work and ranking certain types of jobs over others.
“It’s really overwhelming — in a good way,” he explained. “When I first saw those pictures… I was really devastated.” However, “the shame part didn’t last very long.”
Geoffrey says he’s been at Trader Joes for 15 months while still guesting on TV shows. “I’d been teaching acting, directing for 30-plus years, but it got to a point where it didn’t add up enough. You gotta do what you gotta do,” he explained.
His ultimate takeaway from the experience is that while the shame passed, he hopes that the symbol of and dignity of work lasts. “I hope what doesn’t pass is people rethinking what it means to work — the honor of the working person and the dignity of work,” he says. “The idea that some jobs are better than others that’s not true. Every job is worthwhile.”
It’s incredibly inspiring to see what was supposed to be a story of shame and tearing someone down get turned on it’s head and do quite the opposite.
Amelia Cunningham is a Starcasm writer and editor