Job-shamed 'Cosby Show' actor reminds us: No job is better than any other job

Actor Geoffrey Owens attends the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City. 
Larry Busacca | Getty Images

Actor Geoffrey Owens, a star from "The Cosby Show," found himself in the headlines this week when a photo of him working as a Trader Joe's cashier in New Jersey went viral. While some people shamed the actor for working a reportedly $11 an hour job, other people came to his defense, including millionaire filmmaker Tyler Perry.


After hearing about Owens' job and the backlash he was receiving, Perry praised the actor for his work ethic and invited him to join the cast of one of his hit shows airing on Oprah's OWN network. Currently, Perry's lineup at OWN includes some of the network's most popular shows to date, including "The Have and the Have Nots," "If Loving You is Wrong," and a new spinoff series "The Paynes."


In an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts for "Good Morning America," Owens responded to the mixed job reactions he's been receiving the past few days. He said that while he's received an outpouring of support from the Hollywood community, he wouldn't feel comfortable accepting a job based off his recent popularity.

"Honestly, I mean I know this might sound weird, I wouldn't feel comfortable getting acting jobs from this event," he tells Roberts. "I wouldn't mind getting auditions. I don't mind if people call me to try out for things due to what's happened, but I actually wouldn't feel comfortable with someone giving me a job because this happened. I want to get a job because I'm the right person for that job."

Owens, known for his role as Elvin Tibideaux on "The Cosby Show," has had a long-standing career in Hollywood that also includes roles on TV shows like "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "That's So Raven," "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and the 2009 film "Play the Game."

The Yale University graduate tells Roberts that he's been teaching acting and directing classes for the past 30 years. To pick up extra money, he took the job at Trader Joe's since the role's flexibility allowed him to also stay in the acting business.

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis tweeted her support to Owens for his work ethic and character and noted that despite popular belief, very few people in the industry are actually making a high-paying salary. In fact, the current average salary for actors and actresses today is approximately $51,000 per year, according to PayScale.


Owens, who said he had been working at Trader Joe's for 15 months prior to this incident, is proof that you should never feel too proud to do any job. He says that while the job shaming he has faced will eventually pass, he hopes what doesn't pass is the meaning and dignity that comes with hard work, regardless of how big or small the job is.

Every job is "valuable and worthwhile," he says.

"I hope that this period that we're in now, we have a heightened sensitivity about that and a re-evaluation of what it means to work and a revaluation of the idea that some jobs are better than others because that's actually not true," he says. "There is no job that is better than another job."

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