New York, NY – This Labor Day Weekend, a dimwitted attempt to job-shame “Cosby Show” actor Geoffrey Owens for working at a Clifton, NJ grocery store not only backfired on Twitter — it also managed to expose several false narratives about working actors, as well as the very nature of work itself.
Whether someone earns a spot on a successful television series or a multi-billion-dollar high-rise construction project — the general perception among too many, is that lucky person “has it made” — that they never again have to worry about keeping a roof over their heads or feeding and clothing their children.
For the majority of working actors who spend the bulk of their careers in virtual anonymity —and every one else that has to make, run, craft, produce, build or operate something in order to survive in this economy — the struggle is precarious and unending.
To try and hold up a father to scorn and ridicule for doing what he has to do to provide for himself and his family is not only obscene, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of how the system is designed to keep working class people, if not perpetually on the brink, than just within sight of it.
Last year, Tony-nominated actor Michelle Wilson talked about what’s it’s really like being a working actor in this town and times in her own career where she found herself in the same position as the Yale-educated Owens.
“Working actors are worker bees,” Wilson told LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz. “You see maybe the half-percent that are famous. But most actors grind — they’re temporarily employed. We’re part of a union — most of us two, or three — so, we’re grinders. I’m a single mother. My daughter is in her first year of college and there have been times that I have had to step away from theater or the arts just to provide.”
For more than a year-and-a-half, striking Spectrum workers with IBEW Local 3 have also been scrambling to make ends meet. When stints with other union shops became exhausted, many turned to driving delivery trucks or for Uber.
The strikers watched as Charter/Spectrum’s takeover of Time-Warner Cable immediately put their pension and medical plans in jeopardy. Their “American Dream” — everything they had worked so hard to attain — suddenly put in peril. So, they fought back and took to the streets. And, like Owens and Wilson both — took jobs they needed to take in order to keep providing for their families.
Geoffrey Owens “caught” working at a Trader Joe’s in Jersey isn’t a mark against him — it’s an indictment of a system that is making it increasingly harder for working people — regardless of industry or profession — to make a living.