Karma Lawrence didn’t intend to shame Geoffrey Owens for working at a Trader Joe’s. The 50-year-old New Jersey woman recognized the actor as he bagged groceries at a local supermarket and took a quick photo.
“I figured everybody does it. I don’t know what possessed me. I just did it. I didn’t even think about it. I just kind of did it on impulse and it was a bad impulse,” she told reporters with NJ.com.
Lawrence considered approaching him and saying something, but decided not to.
“I thought, you 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 shared her amateur paparazzi photo online, where it was picked up by websites and newspapers nationwide. The New Jersey grandmother didn’t ask for any payment for her photo.
As news spread of Owens’ grocery store gig, Lawrence’s social media accounts started buzzing. After she received the first message decrying her for sharing the photo, she realized it had gone viral. She had gone viral, and not in a good way. “So much hate. So much nastiness. Oh, it’s been terrible,” Lawrence said in an interview with NJ Advance Media on Tuesday. “They write Karma’s a b****. It’s bad.”
Lawrence was called out very publicly by a number of celebrities. Actress Patricia Heaton called back to the part-time job that helped her stay afloat while filming Thirtysomething in the early ’90s in a tweet supporting Owens. “When I worked on Thirtysomething I was also summarizing depositions to pay my rent. Why are you trying to humiliate this honorable, hardworking actor? Shame on you!”
Again, why is this news? When I worked on “Thirtysomething” I was also summarizing depositions to pay my rent. Why are you trying to humiliate this honorable, hardworking actor? Shame on you! #geoffreyowens – many great blessings are coming your way! https://t.co/8tgvW3iixr
— Patricia Heaton (@PatriciaHeaton) September 2, 2018
“The people taking his picture and passing judgement are trash,” tweeted Justine Bateman, who started her career portraying Mallory Keaton on the ’80s sitcom Family Ties. She continued her in a second tweet, “I’ll also add that GeoffreyOwens is one of the VERY few people on the planet who has acted on a hit TV show. That is something I’m certain that Karma Lawrence has never, and will never do. #Respect”
I’ll also add that GeoffreyOwens is one of the VERY few people on the planet who has acted on a hit TV show. That is something I’m certain that Karma Lawrence has never, and will never do. #Respect
— Justine Bateman (@JustineBateman) September 1, 2018
Johnson says she sees no shame in working at Trader Joe’s.
“When I saw him working there I thought maybe because of everything with Bill Cosby that his residuals got cut. And people have to take a normal job. But I didn’t think anything bad about it. I work a normal job.”
Owens worked at the store for a little over a year and was frequently recognized by shoppers. He wasn’t outspoken about his job because he’s still pursuing acting roles and didn’t want to give the impression he’d quit the industry.
“No one should feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life. I’ve had a great career.”