Geoffrey Owens’ name hasn’t been in the news much in recent years.
He’s most well-known for playing Elvin Tibideaux on “The Cosby Show,” which ended its eight-year run in 1992.
Owens has had numerous screen credits since then, but nothing of the stature of being a recurring character on one of the biggest hit TV shows of the 1980s.
As many people trying to make a living as an actor find themselves doing to pay the bills, Owens, 57, was spotted recently doing a much more normal job: Bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s in Clifton, N.J.
There’s no shame in that, right?
To answer our own question: No, there is not.
So we’re not sure why some in the media attempted to shame him.
“From learning lines to serving the long line! The Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens is spotted working as a cashier at Trader Joe's in New Jersey,” reads the Aug. 30 headline in The Daily Mail, a British tabloid. A woman recognized Owens as she shopped at the store in question and posted the photos on social media.
The Daily Mail – so notorious for its casual relationship with facts that Wikipedia no longer accepts it as a source — went on to write: “Wearing an ID badge bearing his name, the former star wore a Trader Joe's T-shirt with stain marks on the front as he weighed a bag of potatoes.”
How are the stain marks relevant, exactly? Are the reporters and editors at The Daily Mail unfamiliar with the idea that you might actually get a little dirty while working? Here in America, most of us had a first job where getting a stain on your work clothes was just another day. Many of us still work that kind of job.
When FoxNews.com picked up their story, its choice of words also was a bit curious: “ 'Cosby Show' actor Geoffrey Owens spotted bagging groceries at NJ Trader Joe's” reads the headline above two photos side by side: One a glamour headshot of Owens from his ‘Cosby Show’ days or thereabouts, the other of him on the job at Trader Joe’s, not nearly as youthful-looking and, as happens to many of us as we age, several pounds heavier.
The implication is clear: Look at how far this one-time star has fallen.
We don’t care for the implication. Because we don’t consider an honest day’s work, whatever the job may be, as a fall of any kind.
For every actor making $20 million per movie — not that there are all that many of those — there are thousands of actors taking whatever work they can find while holding on to their acting dreams, whether on stage or screen.
As Vox.com reported, more than two-thirds of all actors affiliated with the Screen Actors Guild make less than $1,000 a year as actors. Not that Owens hasn’t been acting: In addition to regular theater work, he’s been a television guest actor every year but one since 2007. He’s also taught acting classes at Yale, Columbia, and the well-respected New York play incubator Primary Stages.
Zach Braff, who starred on the TV series “Scrubs” from 2001 to 2010, tweeted in support of Owens: “Over 70 percent of SAG members don’t make enough money to qualify for health insurance. Taking a swipe at a man for earning an honest living to support himself is a super (expletive) thing to do.”
Terry Crews, who stars on the current NBC show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and played three seasons in the National Football League before pursuing an acting career, tweeted:
“I swept floors AFTER the NFL. If need be, I’d do it again. Good honest work is nothing to be ashamed of.”
No, it is not.
When interviewed Sept. 4 by Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America,” Owens said: "There's no job better than another ... every job is worthwhile.
“I hope what doesn’t pass is ... this rethinking about what it means to work, the honor of the working person, and the dignity of work.”
Absolutely right, Mr. Owens.
Keep up the good work.