Award shows celebrating the biggest names in Hollywood aren’t known for being in touch with the regular folk, but Sunday night’s SAG Awards did the unexpected and honoured a member of the Actor’s Union who wasn’t the lead in blockbuster film or highly rated TV series this year. In August 2018, The Cosby Show star Geoffrey Owens was photographed working in a Trader Joes, with the image quickly going viral thanks to Fox News job-shaming the actor. Many of Owens’ peers and fans quickly came to his defence, and during Sunday night’s SAG opening Owens joked about the incident, with his appearance acting as a welcome reminder that there’s no shame in working hard and following your dreams.
This weekend’s SAG Awards included the show’s traditional opening, which is comprised of a handful of actors sharing short stories about their careers. Starting with Mike Myers, who gave a shout-out to the Canadian government, the cameras panned to Owens, who received thunderous applause from the audience of his peers. Taking a moment to receive the well-deserved praise, Owens addressed the viral picture, saying, “So, somewhere in the middle of the road of my life, I found myself in the dark wood of unemployment and debt. But instead of switching careers like a sane person, I took a job at a local Trader Joe’s to see if I could hang in there with my career. And, um, it’s actually worked out pretty well. I’m Geoffrey Owens and I am an actor.”
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) January 28, 2019
We usually cry during award shows but sobbing in the first two minutes is a new record. Well played, SAG Awards.
Following the Fox News story attempting to shame Owens for daring to work a retail job in order to support his family (the nerve!), the outpouring of support from actors was immediate. Terry Crews, Pamela Adlon, and Julie Berman shared their own stories of working minimum wage jobs in order to make ends meet between acting gigs, while Justine Bateman, Dan Rather, Judd Apatow, Blair Underwood and James Woods applauded Owens.
Owens has continued to work since The Cosby Show ended in 1992, most recently appearing on Divorce, Blue Bloods, The Affair, and more. Following the smear story, Owens landed new roles on NCIS: New Orleans and Billions. Finally, Fox News does something good.
Many viewers praised SAG for featuring Owens during the opening, a move that acted as reminder that for every Bradley Cooper and Emily Blunt, there are hundreds of SAG members struggling to make ends meet.
Wow Geoffrey Owens. That was a great call. #SAGAwards
— Kristopher Tapley (@kristapley) January 28, 2019
it’s nice to see the huge round of applause Geoffrey Owens got last night at the SAG awards…now who is giving that actor a job?
— Ellen Barkin (@EllenBarkin) January 28, 2019
— Evan Cleaver (@EvanCleaver) January 28, 2019
Geoffrey Owens’s “I Am an Actor” was the best version of that bit ever done at this show. #SAGAwards
— Rachel King (@rachelking) January 28, 2019
— Britni (@brit_tweets) January 28, 2019
HELL YES!!! Having Geoffrey Owens not only there but also being one of the people in the “I am an Actor” beginning, WAS AMAZING!!!! And the supportive applause he received from his fellow actors was the icing on the cake… BRAVO SAG for remembering those who aren’t “A-listers”
— Tom Mack (@T__Mack__) January 28, 2019
GEOFFREY OWENS WAS ONE OF MY ACTING TEACHERS @ HB STUDIOS i learned more about Shakespeare, literary analysis and the English language studying 2 years with him than in all my years in academia. am so proud of calling him my teacher #SAGAwards https://t.co/WaCUvRDRSB
— Liza Sabater 🇵🇷👸🏾 (@blogdiva) January 28, 2019
Geoffrey Owens personifies everything true and good about tonight’s celebration. #SAGAwards
— Chris Witherspoon (@WitherspoonC) January 28, 2019
Owens’ speech during the opening of the SAG Awards wasn’t the only time the awards show shone a light on how difficult it is to pursue a career in the arts. Best Actress in a Comedy winner Rachel Brosnahan thanked the hundreds of extras who work on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, telling the audience that these actors work the same long hours as the main cast and make significantly less money. Patricia Arquette took time out of her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Drama for Escape At Dannemora for ‘an order of business,’ calling out production companies that aren’t paying actors overtime.
— TNT Drama (@tntdrama) January 28, 2019
As for Owens, he’s currently enjoying the response from his SAG appearance.
— Geoffrey Owens (@raisingthebard) January 28, 2019