CLIFTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — 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.
Many are saying the photo should have never been taken, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
Geoffrey Owens played “Elvin” on The Cosby Show. He was the doctor husband of Sondra Huxtable, one of Bill Cosby’s daughters on the show.
Some 25 years later, the Yale graduate has a job at the Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey. He was put in the spotlight for it after shopper Karma Lawrence snapped a photo of the 57-year-old last week and sent it to news outlet The Daily Mail, which quoted her as saying, in part, “Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier.”
Needless to say, the citizen reporting created controversy.
“You’re shaming a black man for doing a job, providing for his family, providing for himself, I don’t think that’s right,” said Samantha Cordova of Kearney.
“It’s not a big deal,” another Kearney resident said.
“What’s he supposed to do when he doesn’t have an acting gig, just chill?” added Gabby Cabacab of Clifton.
“Bagging groceries isn’t anything to be ashamed of,” said Mike Continio of Branchburg.
In fact, many say it’s something to be proud of. Support is pouring in for Owens on social media, from the spokesperson for the National Rifle Association to the actors union, SAG-AFTRA.
“If you’re on a big show or not, the truth is people are paid different salaries at different times in their lives,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said. “What I’ll say as the SAG-AFTRA president, shame on anybody who would make fun of somebody really working,”
Former soap opera actress and acting teacher Kathleen Kellaigh said she admires Owens, adding when she left the show “Guiding Light” she stayed out of the public eye.
“Because I didn’t want people to say, ‘Oh look what she’s doing now,'” Kellaigh said. “My husband was on Broadway for over 25 years and now he works in retail. Actors are people and we have the same needs as everyone else and we will do whatever it takes to make families happy and bring joy to our audiences. We have to juggle both.”
No one answered the door at Owens’ home, and he did not return CBS2’s calls. However, he thanked supporters on Instagram, posting, “There’s no shame in hard work.”
Owens was not working Monday, but customers CBS2’s Rozner spoke with said he’s regularly here and most of them had no idea he was an actor.
“Sometimes stocking and then sometimes cashiering,” Melissa Davis said. “Greets and very pleasant. Overall, pretty much like any Trader Joe’s employee.”
Davis said next time she’ll tell him to keep up the good work, no matter where that work is being done.
Owens is also a book author and mentors other actors in the community.