Shopper regrets taking photos of Cosby actor working at Trader Joe's 

'If I could take it back, I would': Shopper says she deeply regrets taking photos of former Cosby Show actor bagging groceries after he was shamed for working at Trader Joe's

  • Karma Lawrence says she never meant to hurt actor Geoffrey Owens when she photographed him bagging groceries at Trader Joe's
  • She said she took the photo on 'impulse', and was 'extremely apologetic' 
  • 'And if I could take it back, I would,' she added
  • Owens, 57, has been working part-time at Trader Joe's for 15 months
  • Photos spread rapidly and many were accused of job shaming the former star
  • Owens said on Tuesday that he has never been ashamed of the work 
  • He said he is happy his story has encouraged talk about the 'dignity' of a job  
  • The star also revealed he has not had an acting job which lasted more than 10 weeks since 1992, when The Cosby Show wrapped
  • He quit his job last week in light of the unwanted attention he has received  

By Hannah Parry and Jennifer Smith For Dailymail.com

Published: 09:31 EDT, 5 September 2018 | Updated: 13:11 EDT, 5 September 2018

Karma Lawrence (pictured) says she never meant to hurt actor Geoffrey Owens when she photographed him bagging groceries at the store
Karma Lawrence (pictured) says she never meant to hurt actor Geoffrey Owens when she photographed him bagging groceries at the store

Karma Lawrence (pictured) says she never meant to hurt actor Geoffrey Owens when she photographed him bagging groceries at the store

The shopper who snapped candid photos of a former The Cosby Show actor working at Trader Joe's says she now regrets the decision.

Karma Lawrence says she never meant to hurt actor Geoffrey Owens when she photographed him bagging groceries at the store and shared the pictures with several media outlets.

The 50-year-old told NJ.com she did it 'on impulse' adding: 'I figured everybody does it. I don't know what possessed me. I just did it. I didn't even think about it.'

Lawrence said she actually wanted to approach Owens in the store and tell him she was a fan but had worried it might embarrass him.    

'But then I did something that actually embarrassed him more. I didn't go with my first instinct, and I should've. I should've.'

She said when she saw him there, she assumed it may be because the residuals for The Cosby Show had been cut in the wake of the Bill Cosby sex scandal. 

Owens admitted last week he was 'devastated' after the photos were made public.

Last week, a fan photographed Geoffrey Owens bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. He laughed off the 'bad' pictures and said jokingly that they'd been photo-shopped but stood by his part time job at the grocery store and said he is not ashamed of making an honest wage
Last week, a fan photographed Geoffrey Owens bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. He laughed off the 'bad' pictures and said jokingly that they'd been photo-shopped but stood by his part time job at the grocery store and said he is not ashamed of making an honest wage
Last week, a fan photographed Geoffrey Owens bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. He laughed off the 'bad' pictures and said jokingly that they'd been photo-shopped but stood by his part time job at the grocery store and said he is not ashamed of making an honest wage
Last week, a fan photographed Geoffrey Owens bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. He laughed off the 'bad' pictures and said jokingly that they'd been photo-shopped but stood by his part time job at the grocery store and said he is not ashamed of making an honest wage

Geoffrey Owens was snapped bagging groceries at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey. He laughed off the 'bad' pictures and said jokingly that they'd been photo-shopped but stood by his part-time job at the grocery store and said he is not ashamed of making an honest wage

The 57-year-old also revealed that he had been working at the store in New Jersey for 15 months 'out of necessity' between short-term acting gigs and teaching, but that he has now quit because of the unwanted attention he has received.

'When I first saw the pictures... I was really devastated,' Owens said, explaining that he has not had an on-screen job which lasted more than 10 weeks in the 26 years since The Cosby Show wrapped.

'I got to a point where I'd been teaching acting and directing for 30 plus years but it just didn't add up enough. You've got to do what you've got to do. I wanted a job that I could I have some flexibility and try to stay in the acting business. 

'I didn't advertise it, not because I was ashamed of it, but because I didn't want the acting community to think that I wasn't pursuing acting anymore,' he said. 

Lawrence says she regrets causing Owens pain, and that she is also suffering from an angry backlash after sharing the pictures.

She has even shut down her social media accounts, saying she cried for 30 minutes after reading some of the vitriolic responses to her photos.

'So much hate. So much nastiness. Oh, it's been terrible,' Lawrence said.

She insists that she remains a fan of Owens, and Trader Joe's, where she regularly shops and that her photos had not been 'malicious.'

'I'm not the monster they're making me out to be.'

And if she had one message for the star, it was her apology. 

'I am extremely, extremely apologetic about what has happened,' she said. 'And if I could take it back, I would.'

Owens played Elvin Tibideaux, the husband of the eldest daughter of Bill Cosby's character on the TV show. 

Since the photos emerged, numerous actors and members of the public voiced support for Owens, saying there is no shame in being a working actor.

Owens proudly wore his Trader Joe's name tag to appear on Good Morning America on Tuesday. He also wore a Yale hat in a tribute to the school which he graduated from in 1983 and where he has taught acting in the past
Owens proudly wore his Trader Joe's name tag to appear on Good Morning America on Tuesday. He also wore a Yale hat in a tribute to the school which he graduated from in 1983 and where he has taught acting in the past

Owens proudly wore his Trader Joe's name tag to appear on Good Morning America on Tuesday. He also wore a Yale hat in a tribute to the school which he graduated from in 1983 and where he has taught acting in the past

Owens himself was baffled by the sudden interest. 

'It was really overwhelming. It came out of nowhere. I feel like I'm more of a celebrity now than I ever have been. I'm more of a celebrity now than when I actually was a celebrity!' he joked. 

He went on to say he hoped his story sparked a shift in attitudes about work and getting by. 

'This business of me being the Cosby guy who got shamed for working at Trader Joe's, that's going to pass. I hope what doesn't pass is this idea that people are now thinking about - what it means to work. 

'The honor the working person and the dignity of work. [There's a] reevaluation [of the idea] that some jobs are better than others. It's not true. 

'There is no job that's better than another.  It may pay better, it may have better benefits, it may look better on paper. But it's not better. Every job is worthwhile.

Owens is pictured in a head shot from The Cosby Show. He appeared in it from 1985 to 1992
Owens is pictured in a head shot from The Cosby Show. He appeared in it from 1985 to 1992

Owens is pictured in a head shot from The Cosby Show. He appeared in it from 1985 to 1992

'No one should feel sorry for me. I've had a great life, a great career. I've had a career most actors would die for.  I am doing fine,' he said proudly.   

Owens added that the story had piqued interest in his acting talents again and that while he had been offered some 'hints' of work since the story erupted.

They include a job offer by director Tyler Perry who offered him a role on OWN's show The Haves and the Haves Nots.

'#GeoffreyOwens I'm about to start shootings OWN's number one drama next week! Come join us!' Perry wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.

'I have so much respect for people who hustle between gigs. The measure of a true artist.'

But it's not clear whether Owens will take the offer, as her said the renewed interest in him and left him feeling uncomfortable. 

'This might sound weird but I wouldn't feel comfortable getting acting jobs from this event. I wouldn't mind getting auditions. But I wouldn't feel comfortable, someone giving me a job, because this happened. I want to get a job because I am the right person for the job,' he said.  

At the end of his interview, he won enthusiastic applause from host Robin Roberts. 

She is one of the many people who have lauded his work ethic since the photographs emerged. 

Since The Cosby Show wrapped in 1992, Owens (shown above, top right, with disgraced star Bill Cosby and the rest of the show's cast in a fourth series promotional image) has not had an acting job which lasted more than 10 weeks

Others include actor Terry Crews who tweeted in support of Owens: 'I swept floors after the NFL. If need be, I'd do it again. 

'Good honest work is nothing to be ashamed of.' 

'I don't know #GeoffreyOwens but I know this - almost every successful actor, singer, athlete, or celebrity is one lucky (unlucky) break away from bagging groceries themselves,' tweeted New Kids on the Block member Donnie Wahlberg.

'Few would admit it. Fewer humble enough to do it,' he added.

'In between One Tree Hill and Cougar Town I went back to work as a cocktail waitress,' wrote television writer Audrey Wauchope‏.

Owens played Elvin Tibideaux, the husband of Sondra Huxtable, on the final five seasons of NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, between 1985 and 1992.

He went on to appear in went on to appear in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and That's So Raven. 

More recent roles include parts in Lucifer and The Affair. 

Keisuke Hoashi‏ also has had a variety of roles in between gigs at major shows like Big Little Lies, Law & Order, and Will & Grace.

'I used to have a GREAT day job as a tech writer, multimedia designer and developer,' he tweeted.

'I also entertained the troops at these high-tech multinational corps by singing, dancing, and emcee-ing their All-Hands meetings & holiday parties.

Actor Anthony Atamanuik, best known for his Donald Trump impersonation, has washed dishes, bussed tables, worked in a law office, and cleaned a video store.

'Work is work, always be prepared to do it,' he tweeted. 'Geoffrey Owens is a testimony to the dignity of work and to frame it as anything else is ignorant.'

Entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner still remembers the day she called her agent and said she was going to apply for a job at Target.

'The economy crashed and I couldn't find steady work,' she said. 'I struggled.'

'I wasn't ashamed. I needed to work. I had bills. And an honest days work is just that, honest.'

Even the SAG-AFTRA foundation tweeted its support for Owens and actors over the weekend
Even the SAG-AFTRA foundation tweeted its support for Owens and actors over the weekend

Even the SAG-AFTRA foundation tweeted its support for Owens and actors over the weekend

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