Why Hollywood Is Rushing to the Defense of This Cosby Show Actor

September 5, 2018

InStyle.com | By Sam Reed

The name Geoffrey Owens might not ring any bells to the casual observer of the Hollywood scene, but he’s certainly caught the attention of a number of show biz’s biggest players.

Here’s why you keep hearing about him.

The Cosby Show

NBC/Getty Images

Who is he?

Owens is best known for his role as Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show. He was recently job-shamed for picking up a side hustle: A cashier gig at a New Jersey Trader Joe’s. Photos of the actor bagging groceries at the beloved food hub began circulating on the internet last week when a customer recognized him as the love interest of the eldest Huxtable daughter, Sondra. The initial Daily Mailarticle and a follow-up Fox News article were widely shared on social media, with many commenters ridiculing Owens for his day job.

The Cosby Show

NBC/Getty Images

The Cosby Show

NBC/Getty Images

Why all the hulabaloo?

The actor picked up the gig in order to maintain his flexibility and support his family between jobs. (SAG-affiliated actors typically make less than $1,000 per year, according to Vox.) People reports that Owens held the job for 15 months before hanging up his apron for good after the media attention and job-shaming from former fans.

FringeNYC 2012 Press Launch

Robin Marchant/Getty Images

In an interview with Good Morning America, Owens said he was initially devastated to see the images online, but “the period of devastation was so short because so shortly after that, the responses, my wife and I started to read [them] … and fortunately the shame part didn’t last very long,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

What’s he been up to since The Cosby Show?

He’s consistently held guest TV roles over the years, but the Yale grad has also been teaching acting classes at Yale, Columbia and the prestigious New York incubator Primary Stages, according to Vox.

What’s happening now? And what’s this about Tyler Perry?

Actors and producers alike are coming forward to support Owens, with several sharing stories of their own side-hustles. Nate Richert, whom you might remember as the floppy-haired Harvey from the ’90s sitcom version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, shared with his Twitter followers that he currently works as a janitor and maintenance man to pay his bills. “I do improv and songwriting to maintain my sanity,” he added. “Actors so very rarely have job security or consistent work, quality healthcare, a reasonable retirement. We are actors anyway because it is who we are at the core.”

Nate Richert

@NateRichert

I’ve been an actor for 32 yrs (since age 8). I’m extremely lucky to have had any success at all, let alone solid work in film and TV for 6yrs (20yrs ago). I’m currently a maintenance man, a janitor, a carpenter, and do whatever random jobs I can get to pay the bills. I do improv

Terry Crews also shared that he “swept floors” after retiring from the NFL.

terrycrews

@terrycrews

I swept floors AFTER the @NFL. If need be, I’d do it again. Good honest work is nothing to be ashamed of.

Yashar Ali 🐘

@yashar

Delete this. The man is trying to put food on the table and you’re trying to humiliate him? https://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/1035663476180615168 

The SAG-AFTRA Foundation, which represents actors, also chimed in.

SAG-AFTRA

@sagaftra

All work has dignity and shame on anyone who thinks otherwise. Thanks to the Click to watch SAG-AFTRA President @TheGabrielle_C interview with CBS https://cbsloc.al/2NQtWwa 

Social Media Erupts Over Job Shaming Of Former ‘Cosby Show’ Actor

There was outrage Monday over a picture job shaming a former actor on “The Cosby Show.” It shows him working as a cashier at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey.

newyork.cbslocal.com

And about Tyler Perry. Upon hearing Owens’s story, the prolific producer reached out to the actor to offer him a job on his new show The Haves and Have Nots on OWN. “I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs,” wrote Perry on Twitter. “The measure of a true artist.”

Tyler Perry

@tylerperry

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.

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So, is Owens going to take the job?

Maybe. In response to Perry’s offer, the actor told Entertainment Tonight: “I’m so, like, skeptical. Like, really? Are you actually saying come work with me? Because we’ve never worked together before. So, that’s a very, very generous thing for him to say. And we’ll see what happens with that. But, that’s encouraging.”