Geoffrey Owens Responds to Tyler Perry Offering Him a Job After Being Shamed for Bagging Groceries

Entertainment Tonight:  

New doors are certainly opening for Geoffrey Owens, after the 57-year-old actor was shamed for having a job at Trader Joe’s.

ET spoke to Owens — who’s best known for playing Sondra Huxtable’s doctor husband Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show — on Tuesday in New York City, where he talked about all the support he’s received from fans and celebs alike after multiple outlets published photos of him bagging groceries at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey. Since the headlines, Tyler Perry tweeted that he was offering Owens an acting gig on one of his OWN shows.

“That was kind of cool,” Owens tells ET about the big opportunity. “I mean, that kind of sounded like he was saying, ‘Come work with me.’ I’m so, like, skeptical. Like, really? Are you actually saying come work with me? Because we’ve never worked together before. So, that’s a very, very generous thing for him to say. And we’ll see what happens with that. But, that’s encouraging.”

However, Owens admits to ET that he hasn’t actually seen any of Perry’s shows, which include The Haves and Have Nots, If Loving You Is Wrong and House of Payne.

“This is going to sound funny. I’m not a TV watcher,” Owens says with a laugh. “Never have been. I remember the day that my first Cosby show aired back in ’85! I didn’t even… I barely owned a television. We had to borrow my brother’s TV and set it up. It was this little, dinky thing with the satellite, the little rabbit ears and stuff, in order to watch my first show. I’ve never been a television watcher.”

Owens also stresses that he wants to earn the role rather than it be handed to him.

“I don’t expect to be offered things,” he explains. “It would be lovely as one of the results of this, some doors open in terms of giving me the opportunity to audition. That, I would appreciate — always, as all actors do. I don’t necessarily feel comfortable being given things as a result of this. I mean, I’m not in a position to turn things down but… I don’t expect that kind of thing. I like the idea of, you know, put me in the room with everyone else and see if I’m the right one for the job.”

Owens has actually since stopped working at Trader Joe’s as a result of the articles and explained the decision to ET.

“When I quit, the guys at the store said, you know, ‘Don’t quit, let’s keep it open, let’s have it like an indefinite leave of absence,'” he shares. “OK, that’s cool, that’s great, but basically I left at that point because I felt like just for my personal sake, my dignity and my emotional well being, I didn’t want to be in the store while I felt like people might be staking out the place as they did, actually. People came to the store and they were staking it out and stuff. I didn’t feel like that was going to be good for my spiritual being, so I felt like I needed to at least temporarily step out, and I think that was the wise thing to do, actually.”

He also explains why he was particularly bothered by one of the unflattering articles, which contains an eyewitness account that referred to him as looking “fat, bloated” as well as “unhappy.”

“Oh my gosh, it’s like, they have to say things like, ‘with his stained shirt bagging potatoes’ and I love this… and the lady said he looked ‘fat, bloated and unhappy,’ and I thought, ‘What?’ As a Yale English major I’m gonna take exception with that,” he jokes. “Don’t say fat and bloated — that’s what we call repetitious. Just use one of those words — don’t use two, just one is fine — and ‘unhappy?’ You know, no. I was not unhappy. Now, was I overjoyed that day? Maybe not … it’s like, let’s just describe this in the worst way possible, you know, with the picture down from below … I don’t know, I wish those guys no ill. I kind of feel sorry for them and I hope they’ve learned a lesson. I hope bad karma turns into good karma, and we’ll leave it at that.”

Clearly, Owens has hope in humanity after the outpouring of support he’s received.

“Well, what they did was they appealed to the worst natures in people, and I think they were surprised to find that the better natures in people totally triumph in this case,” he says.

“When I took the job at Trader Joe’s, I was concerned that people would judge me, reject me, look down on me,” he admits. “I made a conscious effort not to let people in my industry know about it, and to a certain extent that may have been wise because some people — they hear you’re working at that kind of job, they think you’re out of the business, you’re not interested in pursuing it anymore. And that wasn’t true. So, I didn’t want anyone to think that, but even beyond that I felt like, I didn’t trust people would be understanding about it. And as we can all see now, I could not have been more wrong. It’s been, across the board, the exact opposite reaction. Everybody is… understanding, sympathetic, sensitive, you know, supportive, encouraging. I didn’t trust people enough. I didn’t give people enough credit, to be honest.”

During ET’s interview, Owens proudly wore his Trader Joe’s name tag.

“This is my Trader Joe’s crew member pin!” he happily explains. “Shout-out to number 610 in Clifton, New Jersey! Hey guys! This is the pin we wear, and it’s a great place. Great place to work. The guys there, everyone was really, very good to me.”

The actor further explained why he chose to wear his pin in a touching gesture.

“It’s to not be ashamed of work but to be proud of whatever you do, you know?” he says. “So, I deliberately brought it today, and I’m wearing it all day just to make a point that, you know, work is not something to be ashamed of no matter what it is.”