This guest needs no introduction, I mean he was a star on one of the biggest shows in America still in syndication over 20 years later. Mr. Geoffrey Owens appeared as Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show in 1985 until the shows end. I first met Mr. Owens about 4 years ago while working as a cashier & barista in a small restaurant on 11th street in New York City. He walked in while I was singing the Pussycat Dolls “when I grow up I wanna be famous…” needless to say he was waiting to take his order and I was getting down behind the register. At the time Mr. Owens was teaching a Shakespearean Theater class at Joffrey’s School for Ballet. His gorgeous wife gave me his card and suggested I look into the class if I really wanted to be an actor. Cut to the present let's chat with Mr. Owens on the craft, dealing with negative press, and becoming a great actor.
R|A: Thank you so much Mr. Owens for taking my interview I see you’ve just completed a film called Hibiscus and an appearance on the Hulu Original series Deadbeat. This blog as mentioned before is for all of those aspiring actors/entertainers, some like myself who grew up watching you on television. My first question is where did you study and what method of acting did you study?
G|O: I studied English and Theater Studies at Yale University, where my acting training was very literary and intellectual, involving a lot of textual analysis. After college, I studied with the late, great actress/teacher Uta Hagen (at her school, the Herbert Berghof Studio).
"Be an actor only if you feel that you can't live without it."
R|A: When we met you were teaching a Shakespeare acting course I believe at Joffrey’s, do you still find time to teach? What are a few key principles you like to instill in your students?
G|O: Yes, I still teach that private Shakespeare workshop. I also teach Shakespeare at Pace University and at the Montclair Adult School. I try to teach my students a sensitivity to and appreciation for language. I try to make them understand that with classical drama, the text comes first; without it, you can't act.
R|A: How big are you on social media marketing for entertainers? I’ve read now that some actors are winning roles by simply tweeting they want it.
G|O: I have no connection with it whatsoever. (If an actor gets a role simply by tweeting that they want it, then they're either a celebrity/star already, OR the role isn't worth getting.)
R|A: What advice would you give anyone on entering this business, and how do you handle press both negative and positive?
G|O: My advice: Do something else, if you can. Be an actor only if you feel that you can't live without it. Concerning press: I never read reviews while I'm working on a show. (Often, I don't even read them after the show.) Bad reviews hurt, and good ones don't help.
R|A: What advice have you received that you would say helped you throughout your career?
G|O: Paul Newman once said to me, "Kid ... you gotta do something."
"The most difficult thing is hanging in there when there's little or no work and you feel as if the entertainment world has forgotten you."
R|A: How do you prepare for a role or even a scene?
G|O: I learn my lines. Over the years, I've realized that this is, by far, the very most important thing of all. Without it, there's no freedom to create or do anything. Beyond that, I try to understand what I'm doing in a scene - what my objective is, etc.
R|A: Who were your acting influences growing up?
G|O: Sydney Poitier was my first inspiration. (I had the great fortune of actually meeting him once!) Other great influences have been Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman.
R|A: I started out doing a lot of extra work for tv shows, in doing so I learned so much about being on set and interacting with the crew. What mistakes would you say most new actors make on set? I realize there’s a certain etiquette not taught in acting classes. Have you had any interesting moments on set in your early career?
G|O: I can't think of a significant "mistake" I made on a set. A mistake that new actors probably make is not being sufficiently prepared or ready. TV and film are extremely pressurized environments. You can be "mellow" personally, but professionally you better be on your shit. I recently shot a scene with Frank Langella in a film called "Youth in Oregon." Langella and the director were both extremely nice and supportive, but the pressure was enormous.
R|A: What would you say is the most difficult thing about being an actor and the most appealing?
G|O: The most difficult thing is hanging in there when there's little or no work and you feel as if the entertainment world has forgotten you. The most appealing aspect? ... Not sure about that.... When you find work, I guess. (Or ... to be less cynical: The most appealing aspect is when, in a play, you feel as if you've made the author's words come alive for the audience.)
R|A: We’ve heard the term “struggling artist” thrown around so many times by parents, and peers. I think we sometimes lack a support system that is needed in a business where you are judged on so much of your aesthetics than your talents. Who was your support system when you first decided to become an actor? And if you did not have one how did you persevere?
G|O: My family was my support system; my mother, father and brothers. Mary, my girlfriend at the time, was also a great support. Now it's primarily my wife Josette and my son, Jordyn.