Best known for portraying Huxtable son-in-law Elvin on “The Cosby Show”, actor Geoffrey Owens made an unintentional return to the limelight in September when a customer at a New Jersey Trader Joe’s recognized him working as a cashier and snapped a photo — which wound up in the Daily Mail.
What happened next was downright incredible as Owens’ fellow actors took to social media to offer their support, explaining that the life of an actor often features lean periods when acting jobs are scarce, leading to the necessity of doing something else.
Owens, 57, subsequently received offers from Tyler Perry and “NCIS: New Orleans”, and he recently spoke with Us Weekly about his experience working at the retail food outlet, where he says he gradually came to be recognized by co-workers.
“It took a number of weeks for it to dawn on some of my colleagues,” he says. “‘Weren’t you that guy, or so and so?’ Another co-worker told them, but they didn’t know, so it took about three or four weeks before the staff at my store kind of wholly knew my past and who I was.”
While he suspected that a few of his co-workers “knew in the beginning,” they were “very discreet about it,” he says, adding: “They just decided they would either let me tell people or people would find out on their own. It was interesting. I guess within a month or so everyone pretty much knew.”
His experience with customers, however, was something else entirely. “Every day I worked there, at least one or two people recognized me,” he says.
Owens had previously revealed that the Bill Cosby scandal resulted in “Cosby Show” reruns being pulled off the air, meaning the residual cheques he relied on between acting jobs stopped coming in. As a result, he took the job at Trader Joe’s, which afforded him a schedule with enough flexibility that he could still pursue acting work and go to auditions.
“You can’t count on offers forever. You got to be back contending like everyone else, which is what I want,” he says. “The work has been constant one way or another… Every time I kind of think [the attention is] going away, I realize it’s still there. The recognition on the street is still there everywhere I go.”
Owens admits that his biggest fears about being “outed” at Trader Joe’s weren’t for himself, but about how it could affect his 19-year-old son, and he sent him a text to apologize “for the embarrassment that the story might cause him.”
“He sent a beautiful text back saying how he was not embarrassed by me, he was very proud of me and that he was proud to have me as a dad,” says Owens. “When I got that text from him, I knew that everything was going to be OK.”