Former Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens appeared at the Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony on Sunday, where he joked about last year’s news that he had taken a job working at Trader Joe’s.
Known for his role as Elvin Tibideaux, husband to Sondra Huxtable, on The Cosby Show, Owens last September made headlines after being spotted worked at a Trader Joe’s supermarket in Clifton, New Jersey. The story went viral, prompting some social media users to point out that the actor was being shamed for working a regular job, rather than pursuing work in the entertainment industry.
Ultimately, that viral fame got Owens back into TV, thanks to guest roles on shows like CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans and Showtime’ Billions, among others. As a result, Owens proclaimed to Sunday’s audience that “I am an actor.”
“Somewhere in the middle of the road of my life, I found myself in the dark wood of unemployment and debt,” Owens said. “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.”
As Owens told People last year, his financial situation resulted in part from fallout over Bill Cosby’s sexual misconduct scandal, which ended in September with the comedian being sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for drugging and sexually assault former Temple University women’s basketball coach Andrea Constand. In the wake of the scandal, episodes of the Cosby Show were pulled from syndication, which hurt Owens’ income in the form of diminished royalty checks.
At the time that the show was pulled, that did make a difference in our income.” Owens told people. “That was one of the elements that led to my getting to the place where I said to myself, ‘I have to do something’ and I was thinking, ‘What can I do?’ And the answer ended up being Trader Joe’s, which is actually a wonderful situation for me in many ways.”
According to Page Six, Owens held his job at Trader Joe’s for about 15 months before a customer recognized him and uploaded a photo of him working to social media. In the wake of the story going viral, he faced shaming online, which led to offers to appear in several television projects. However, despite finding more work in entertainment, Owens would not write off a return to Trader Joe’s, or another store like it, last year.
“I’m going to keep pursing [acting],” he told People. “I’m going to persevere. And even if that means that eventually, when all this hoopla dies down, I might need to take another job outside of the business. I’m still willing to do that.”