Look, entertainment is a tough business, and this is a tough world right now, too. But here’s one ray of hope: When some publications reported, with thinly veiled horror, that actor Geoffrey Owens, best known as kindly Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, was working at a Trader Joe’s, parts of the internet came to Owens’ defence.
If anything, they were horrified that anyone would be horrified that a famous person would have to do blue-collar work to get by.
It started with a Daily Mail story, in which a woman reported seeing Owens on the job. “It made me feel really bad. I was like, ‘Wow, all those years of doing the show and you ended up as a cashier,’” said the person who spotted Owens. The story was also tweeted out by Fox News, complete with a shot of him on the job. That’s when the story’s infamy really took off.
The response was swift, with actors tweeting out their support of Owens and listing the menial jobs they’ve had to take in between gigs. Pamela Adlon, of Better Things, ran down her CV while reminding people that notoriety doesn’t equal financial comfort.
I had been a working actor for years. Jobs stopped, as they do. I worked in retail. At a flower shop. I passed out flyers. It’s about the work. Work gives you pride and purpose. Your visibility as an actor never goes away. But the money sure does. #geoffreyowens pic.twitter.com/BBzZaBrGBx
— Pamela Adlon (@pamelaadlon) September 2, 2018
Terry Crews spoke of the days before his career took off.
— terrycrews (@terrycrews) September 2, 2018
Blair Underwood, these days of Quantico, reminded us that work is work.
— Blair Underwood (@BlairUnderwood) September 2, 2018
Paul Campbell, of Battlestar Galactica fame, pointed out that he, too, has some blue-collar side hustles.
I worked with Geoffrey Owens about 10 years ago on a little Indy film. He’s one of the sweetest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. I’m appalled that people are taking shots at him for working a “regular job.” 2 or 3 times a year I consider walking away from
— Paul Campbell (@ThePaulCampbell) September 2, 2018
Even James Woods took a break from his prolific far right tweeting to offers words that were sensible and kind.
And he’s making more money than Cosby these days. Good for him. Now maybe some casting director will take note of a fine man who swallows his pride and is willing to work. #GeoffreyOwens https://t.co/B1rkk5vLjC
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) September 2, 2018
Owens made 44 appearances on The Cosby Show from 1985 to 1992. In the last two years, he’s racked up credits in small movies and TV shows, including episodes of Elementary and The Blacklist. He’s a working actor, but being an actor means working an inconsistent wage and living without any stability, not always knowing where the next paycheck will come from. The backlash against the initial report and the Fox News tweet not only reminds us that the Internet can sometimes be used for good; it reveals a side of the entertainment business that most viewers may not think about: Just because they’re famous doesn’t mean they’re rich.