It's been a full week since the 'Cosby Show' star was shamed for working a traditional job, and while the experience was devastating, it has also been a blessing, he says.
The first person Geoffrey Owens contacted after discovering an article would be published in which he would be shamed for his job at Trader Joe's was his 19-year-old son — to apologize.
"He was the first person I thought of, and I texted, 'I am really sorry if this embarrasses you.' And he texted me back a beautiful response that made me cry. And I knew I was going to be OK," said the former Cosby Show star.
Granting an interview to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, exactly one week after a story about Owens working as a cashier in a New Jersey Trader Joe's appeared in The Daily Mail, the actor called the entire experience a "blessing," albeit a painful one.
"I don't want to be presumptuous and say because of my situation, we've started a change, but I think it is certainly less shameful to admit that we are all working people who do what we need to do," said the 57-year-old Owens, whose shaming incited a massive backlash toward those who took his picture and the few outlets that ran with the gossip.
"It was mean-spirited," he told THR. "I am a very private person, but I chose this life, so I accepted it. I didn't feel any impulse to lash out, but I was devastated. Fortunately, that didn't last very long when all the support came in."
And now, the jobs offers are also rolling in. Owens revealed that, even though he made it clear in previous interviews he was not looking for a handout just because of the situation, he has been offered, and is mulling over, a "whole handful" of television offers. "It's been a real generosity of spirit and a generosity of action where that is concerned," he said.
Owens said he knew the gossip piece was coming when he was contacted by the reporter a few days before it was published. So, he texted his son, talked to his wife, quit his job at Trader Joe's ("I felt like I had to leave the store") and prepared for the fallout.
"I imagined the worst-case scenario to brace myself, and it somehow managed to be worse than I expected," he said. "The pictures of me, the words that were used to describe me, were so demeaning. It was humiliating, acutely, for a very short time — and then there was this amazing rescue from the world."
Social media came alive with outrage when the gossip was posted. Stars immediately came to Owens' defense, many sharing their own stories of less-than-glamorous jobs they did between scripts to make ends meet. Others, including some old friends, reached out directly.
"Keshia Knight Pulliam, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Sabrina Le Beauf [all Cosby Show alum] have all been in touch and all have been lovely, as you would expect friends to be," said the actor.
As to whether he would go back to Trader Joe's if he needed to in the future, Owens didn't hesitate in answering: "Yes. They said, 'Don't consider it leaving, consider it an indeterminate leave of absence.' So they wanted to hold my place open in case I ever wanted to come back, which I thought was really cool."