Geoffrey Owens was in living rooms across America when he starred as Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show from 1985 to 1992, but his Trader Joe’s coworkers failed to recognize him 25 years later.
“It took a number of weeks for it to dawn on some of my colleagues,” the actor, 57, tells Us Weekly exclusively. “‘Weren’t you that guy, or so and so?’ Another coworker 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.”
Owens said he suspected that a few staffers “knew in the beginning,” but they managed to stay “very discreet about it.”
“They just decided they would either let me tell people or people would find out on their own,” he tells Us. “It was interesting. I guess within a month or so everyone pretty much knew.”
Owens’ customers, on the other hand, were cognizant from his first day on the job. “Every day I worked there, at least one or two people recognized me,” he says.
The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia alum made headlines in September when a customer snapped photos of him working behind the register at a New Jersey store. The job-shaming controversy led Tyler Perry to offer Owens a 10-episode stint on The Haves and the Have Nots. He also booked roles on NCIS: New Orleans and in the movie Fatale.
“You can’t count on offers forever. You got to be back contending like everyone else, which is what I want,” Owens tells Us. “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.”
The TV star, who quit working at Trader Joe’s shortly before his job became news, took the gig for its flexible hours and because he stopped receiving residual payments from The Cosby Show after it was pulled from TV in the wake of star Bill Cosby’s sexual abuse scandal and subsequent prison sentencing.
Owens tells Us that he later texted an apology to his 19-year-old son “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,” he says. “When I got that text from him, I knew that everything was going to be OK.”
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With reporting by Marc Lupo
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