Owens played Elvin Tibideaux, the husband of Sondra, the eldest daughter of Bill Cosby’s character on the TV show. Photos showed him working the register at a New Jersey Trader Joe’s, “Geoffrey” on his name tag. He said he no longer works there due to the unwanted attention he received.
Director Tyler Perry told Owens to “join” him on set and the actor responded, calling Perry’s invitation “kind of cool.”
“That was kind of cool,” Owens told Entertainment Tonight (ET). “I mean, that kind of sounded like he was saying, ‘Come work with me.’ 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.”
“#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,” Perry tweeted Owens on Sept. 4.
Owens also admitted to ET that he hasn’t actually seen any of Perry’s TV shows.
“This is going to sound funny. I’m not a TV watcher,” Owens said. “Never have been. I remember the day that my first Cosby Show aired back in ’85! I didn’t even… I barely owned a television. We had to borrow my brother’s TV and set it up. It was this little, dinky thing with the satellite, the little rabbit ears and stuff, in order to watch my first show. I’ve never been a television watcher.”
Owens also said that he would rather earn a role than have it be handed to him since the pictures of him bagging groceries went viral.
“I don’t expect to be offered things,” he explained. “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.”
He continued: “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.”
Owens said he enjoyed working at Trade Joe’s but he decided to quit after his story went viral.
“I felt like just for my personal sake, my dignity and my emotional well being, I didn’t want to be in the store while I felt like people might be staking out the place as they did, actually,” he explained. “People came to the store and they were staking it out and stuff. I didn’t feel like that was going to be good for my spiritual being, so I felt like I needed to at least temporarily step out, and I think that was the wise thing to do, actually.”
“It’s been surreal,” he said on Good Morning America on Tuesday. “It’s been non-stop contact and emails, phone calls, texts and interviews. It’s actually bizarre — a lot of fun though.”
He also stressed that “every job is worthwhile and valuable,” adding that what’s important is the honour of the working person and the dignity of the work.
“There is no job that’s better than another,” he said. “It may pay better, it may have better benefits, it may look better on paper. But it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile.”
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Owens said people had recognized him in the past at the store and that it was never an issue, noting they were “very, very cool about it.” The 57-year-old actor said he hasn’t had an acting job that lasted more than 10 weeks since leaving The Cosby Show, but has taught acting at Yale and worked other jobs related to entertainment.
“I wanted a job where I could have some flexibility” if auditions or other matters came up, Owen said. “I didn’t advertise it, not because I was ashamed of it, but because I didn’t want the acting community to think that I wasn’t pursuing acting anymore.”
The woman who submitted the photos seemed stunned to see someone from such a popular show doing that type of work.
But several actors pointed out they have to make a living between gigs and places that offer health insurance are especially attractive.
Actor and former professional football player Terry Crews tweeted that he swept floors after the NFL and “if need be, I’d do it again.”
Actor Blair Underwood tweeted that Owens is “being a man in doing what he needs to do to provide for himself and his family.”
Many others fellow actors defended Owens on social media.
Owens was most recently in an episode of Elementary and finished a movie called Impossible Monsters.
“No one should feel sorry for me,” he said. “I’ve had a great life, a great career.”
—With files from the Associated Press