'Cosby Show' star Geoffrey Owens reacts to controversy about his Trader Joe's job: 'I was really devastated'

Actor Geoffrey Owens is speaking out after a photo of him working as a cashier at a New Jersey Trader Joe’s went viral.

The Daily Mail and Fox News were criticized for job-shaming Owens, who famously played Huxtable son-in-law Elvin for five seasons on The Cosby Show, by suggesting that bagging groceries was not worthy work.

The coverage prompted swift backlash, with many of Owens’s fellow actors sharing their own experiences of taking on jobs to make ends meet between acting roles. Both celebrities and the general public argued that there was nothing to be ashamed of for earning a living.

Now Owens is speaking up for himself. The performer, who has recently appeared on shows like Lucifer, The Affair, and Divorce, addressed the response to his grocery-store gig during an appearance on Good Morning America Tuesday morning.

The 57-year-old has since quit working at the Clifton, N.J., branch of Trader Joe’s because of the media attention surrounding it, but he proudly wore his employee badge on the show. He also wore a Yale baseball cap, a nod to his alma mater, where he has also taught.

Owens credited the supermarket chain, where he worked for 15 months, with giving him the flexibility to work shifts around his acting career. He noted that many of his acting jobs are short-term, requiring a backup source of income.

See photos of Geoffrey Owens:

16 PHOTOS
Geoffrey Owens through the years
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Geoffrey Owens through the years
THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 7 -- Pictured: Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 4 -- Pictured: (clockwise from left) Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable (center) Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable -- (Photo by: Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Pictured: (back row, l-r) Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable, (front row, l-r) Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable - (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux -- (Photo by: Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Pictured: Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Pictured: (l-r) Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Doctor Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE COSBY SHOW -- Season 6 -- Pictured: (bottom) Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, (middle row) (l-r) Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable, Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable Kendall, Joseph C. Phillips as Lt. Martin Kendall, Raven-Symon�as Olivia Kendall, (top row)(l-r) Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, Bill Cosby as Doctor Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE COSBY SHOW -- 'Monster Man Huxtable' Episdoe 13 -- Air Date 01/08/1987 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Air Date 05/19/2009 -- Pictured: (front row, l-r) Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad, Earle Hyman, Malcolm-Jamal Warner (back row, l-r) Keisha Knight Pulliam, Raven Symone, Geoffrey Owens -- The cast of The Cosby Show reunite to talk about the series and the release of the 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition dvd set (Photo by Lisa Berg/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER - 'Mirrors' - When Amy makes a surprise visit to Ricky's one morning, she meets his birth mother, Nora, for the first time, and Ben considers getting serious with Adrian, on an all-new episode of 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager' entitled 'Mirrors,' premiering on Monday, April 4, (8:00 - 9:00 PM ET/PT), on ABC Family. (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC Family via Getty Images)GEOFFREY OWENS
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 10: Actor Geoffrey Owens attends the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
Actor Geoffrey Owens attends the 9th Annual TV Land Awards at the Javits Center on April 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
THE COSBY SHOW -- 'The Birth: Part 1 & 2' Episode 6 & 7 -- Aired 11/10/88 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Geoffrey Owens as Elvin Tibideaux -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 07: Actor Geoffrey Owens attends the press launch for FringeNYC 2012 at the New School for Drama on August 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Geoffrey Owens and Condola Rashad attend Broadway's 'Romeo & Juliet' closing night party at Butter on December 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
LUCIFER: Guest star Geoffrey Owens in the 'Deceptive Little Parasite episode of LUCIFER airing Monday, May 8 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
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“I’ve been teaching, acting, directing for 30-plus years, but it got to a point where it just didn’t add up enough,” he said. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

“I didn’t advertise that I was at Trader Joe’s, not that I was ashamed of it but because I didn’t want the entertainment community deciding, ‘Well, he’s doing that, he’s not pursuing acting anymore.’ I felt like I had to be careful about that.”

After joking that media outlets Photoshopped the images a customer took of him working the till — “you know I don’t look that bad,” he cracked to Robin Roberts — Owens admitted that he was “really devastated” by the coverage mocking his work.

“Fortunately, the shame part didn’t last very long,” he added, as he and his wife were heartened by the “incredible support” and “positivity” he has since received.

“It’s really overwhelming, in a good way,” he said. He added that he hopes his situation ushers in a “rethinking about what it means to work … the honor of the working person and the dignity of work.”

“There’s no job that’s better than another job,” he said. “It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a résumé, but actually it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable…

“Nobody should feel sorry for me, either from a positive or negative perspective. I’ve had a great life. I’ve had a great career that most actors would really die for. So no one has to feel sorry for me. I’m doing fine.”

Though he is technically now unemployed, Owens insisted that he “wouldn’t feel comfortable” scoring roles in response to the media hoopla. He is, however, open to audition opportunities.

“I want to get a job because I’m the right person for that job,” he told Roberts.

He has already got at least one offer on the table — from none other than Tyler Perry.

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