Actor Stories: Geoffrey Owens’ Rise and Fall…and Rise Again!
Owens’ newfound fame has given his career a renaissance
(by Jim Webb)
“I’m Geoffrey Owens and I am an actor!” That was the bold declaration made by actor Geoffrey Owens at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Owens received an extremely warm applause after the camera briefly panned over to him to deliver his statement. The outpouring of affection was a continuation of the love and support he received since he was “outted” and shamed by some for his recent choice of employment.
One of the most difficult things about being an actor is the lack of appreciation that people outside “the business” have about how difficult it is to be a working actor. It can be an absolutely brutal business. The competition is fierce.
Hot streaks often give way to long dry spells, where an actor doesn’t work for months. Sometimes years.
Yet people outside the business believe it is all glitz, glamour, fame and fortune. They don’t understand how even successful actors can fall on hard times and must do what is necessary to survive.
In Owens’ case, his journey started with a bang.
(Cast of The Cosby Show)
Owens began his career on fire. It was full speed from the start! There’s really no other way to describe making your television debut on the number one show on television; one of the greatest sitcoms of all time: The Cosby Show.
Owens, was cast as Elvin Tibideaux, the soft-spoken, witty boyfriend of the Huxtable’s eldest daughter, Sondra Huxtable, played by actress Sabrina LeBeauf, in the show’s second season. Their fictional characters would eventually get married and Owens became a regular on the show until it ended in 1992, after 8 seasons.
All seemed to be going well for the Brooklyn, New York-born actor, until he ran into the thing that every working actor fears: a major dry spell.
After a successful run on an iconic show, there probably was nowhere for Owen’s career to go but down. And that’s exactly what happened. Owens would make a few more appearances on television, on shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
But he was never able to come anywhere near the success he enjoyed on The Cosby Show. As the work dried up, the actor needed to make a career choice: continue acting or pursue a different career.
“I decided to hang-in-there with my career” Owens decided.
That meant he would have to find a survival job, one that would pay him a decent wage while allowing him flexibility to go on auditions. He chose to work at Trader Joes.
Unfortunately for Owens, a customer recognized him from The Cosby Show and, unbeknownst to him, took pictures of him while he worked. The pictures ended up on the internet where he was mocked and shamed for having gone from the heights of Hollywood success to bagging groceries at a supermarket.
Owens initially thought the controversy would be the death knell for his career. But the shaming of Owens was short-lived and was soon overtaken by the support of members of the entertainment community, fans of The Cosby Show and the public, who were outraged at the mocking of a struggling actor who was doing an honest day’s work.
“When it first happened, I thought it was going to be devastating; I thought it was going to be catastrophic, and it has been the opposite,” he said. “So fortunately, that difficult time didn’t last very long.”
Owens, the former 1983 cum laude at Yale University, has since become famous all over again.
“I kinda feel like that character in that Woody Allen movie that wakes up one morning and he’s a celebrity all of a sudden,” said Owens.
(Geoffrey Owens at 2019 Sag Awards)
Owen’s newfound fame has given his career a renaissance. He’s done countless interviews about the controversy. Film producers have reached out to him to offer him roles. And he’s landed roles on television shows like NCIS and on Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots.
“It worked out pretty well,” said Owens, with a smirk.
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