Comeback season. Geoffrey Owens opened up about how his life has changed since a photo of him working at Trader Joe’s went viral in August 2018.
The Cosby Show alum revealed exclusively to Us Weekly that he has “absolutely” been embraced by Hollywood following the reveal of his employment status.
“The outpouring of love and support, and practical support in the form of employment as well, has been extremely generous and much appreciated,” Owens, 58, told Us on Thursday, December 19. “Tyler [Perry] is leading the way, of course, with that offer of work on the Haves and the Have Nots. Nicki Minaj was very generous and gave me a very generous gift, which I then turned over to the actor’s fund of actor’s equity. I made a donation to them of her generous gifts.”
The Yale graduate continued, “NCIS: New Orleans offered me some work right off of that. And as well as the offers, I was able to actually just have the opportunity to audition for a number of things that I got work on through auditions just because of the opportunity.”
Owen said that “a lot of doors” opened up for him because of people’s “goodwill” and “faith” in him, which he noted has been “lovely.”
Owens, who played Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show in the ‘80s and ‘90s, made headlines over Labor Day weekend last year after Daily Mail posted a photo of the actor working as a cashier and bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey. “From learning lines to serving the long line!” the Daily Mail’s headline read.
The story quickly went viral, and resulted in Owens being shamed for doing an honest day’s work. But many people came to his defense, including Justine Bateman. The Family Ties alum slammed the “people taking his picture and passing judgment” over Owens “earning an honest living.”
On Thursday, Owens told Us that Bateman, 53, “reached out” to him through a mutual friend’s help and offered up “some very specific encouragement.” He also revealed to Us that he enjoyed working at Trader Joe’s and found it challenging to part ways with his former employer.
“I did love the job. It was very good for me and it’s such a great place to work and [has] wonderful people. I go there once a week,” he explained. “I shop there, that’s my grocery store. So, I’m there, I see my old friends all the time, actually. A few times a month at least, say hello to a lot of people.”
Owens said he’d “probably” still be working at Trader Joe’s “five, six days a week” if the person didn’t share the viral photo of him. However, in conjunction with landing more acting work, he also teaches theater.
“Even with all the wonderful stuff that’s happened, I’m still, unfortunately, not able to rely on just acting,” he said. “That would be lovely, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. I’m a teacher, I teach and I do coaching. So, I have a pretty active teaching and coaching life here in the New York area. I live in Jersey, but do a lot of my work in New York.”
Us spoke with Owens nearly a year after he opened up about his career journey during the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards in January.
“Somewhere in the middle of the road of my life, I found myself in the dark wood of unemployment and debt,” he said at the time. “But instead of switching careers like a sane person, I took a job at a local Trader Joe’s to see if I could hang in there with my career. And, um, it’s actually worked out pretty well. I’m Geoffrey Owens and I am an actor.”
With reporting by Marco Lupo