It's been a cool 26 years since The Cosby Show stopped filming. And in that time, the show's actors have had to find other jobs — even if that means taking on gigs outside Hollywood. Take, for example, Geoffrey Owens. He played Elvin Tibideaux on the sitcom from 1985 to 1992, but was recently spotted bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. And after word got out that the actor now works in a grocery store, celebs and fans had some strong reactions ... though they might not be the reactions you'd expect!
Here's what happened: In late August, a shopper in the Clifton, NJ store recognized Owens as he was working behind the register. The Cosby Show fan snapped a few photos of her famous cashier, who was wearing a name tag that clearly read "Geoffrey." She later told The Daily Mail: "I would have thought after The Cosby Show he would maybe be doing something different. It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did. It made me feel really bad. I was like, 'Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.' Other fans would be surprised for sure as well."
When the photos inevitably got out into the world, fans and fellow actors did have reactions — but they were actually quite supportive. Justine Bateman, who also found fame as a sitcom actress in the 1980s when she starred in Family Ties, took to Twitter to express her views. "So, 26 years after one TV job, this guy looks differently (shock) and is earning an honest living at a Trader Joe’s. The people taking his picture and passing judgment are trash," she wrote.
Harry Potter actor Chris Rankin was also quick to lend his support, tweeting about his own experience of working in a kitchen after his Hollywood stint.
Blair Underwood also shared his thoughts, commending Owens for doing "good, honest work."
People from other high profile industries rushed to defend Owens, as well. Former NFL player Terry Crews shared that he'd swept floors after he retired from football — and would do it again.
The social media support even included a job offer from Tyler Perry, who wrote in part, "I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs. The measure of a true artist."
Since the story broke, Owens has spoken out about his current situation. Appearing on Good Morning America on September 4, the actor explained his initial reaction to the leaked photos.
“I didn’t advertise that I was at Trader Joe’s, not because I was ashamed of it, but because I didn’t want the entertainment community to decide, ‘Well, he’s doing that. He’s not pursuing acting anymore.’ I felt like I had to be careful about that," Owens shared, noting that he had started working there because the store gave him flexibility to go on auditions.
He added: "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. It’s really overwhelming, in a good way. I kind of feel like that character in that Woody Allen movie that wakes up one morning and he’s a celebrity all of a sudden … it came out of nowhere. I really want to thank everybody out there … for the incredible support, the amazing support and positivity that they’ve shown for me. It’s quite astounding.”
Owens continued: "There is no job that’s better than another job. It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a résumé and on paper. But actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.” He added: “No one has to feel sorry for me. I’m doing fine.”
According to Good Morning America, Owens quit Trader Joe's a result of the unwanted attention, but the store said he is welcome to come back anytime.