Yale grad. Columbia professor. TV alum. Working actor.

A man who took a more honorable path in life than his television mentor. Who still appears on prestige TV shows. Who has worked hard to provide for himself. And yet, Fox News and the Daily Mail shamed him for working an honest job at Trader Joe’s.

What most people don’t understand is that away from the cameras and the lights and the studios, is a life that many of us live day to day. Mortgage or rent. Utilities. Car payments. Food. Insurance. In an industry like entertainment, most people who pursue the creative arts take side gigs in order to survive. They bartend on Tuesdays so they can read on Wednesdays. They drive Uber and Lyft during the day so they can pay for studio time at night. They work at grocery stores when there are no roles available to them and the $35,000 you made from a semi-regular guest starring role isn’t going to pay the bills.

When I was in the industry, I made $75 for each music video I appeared in. I made next to nothing when I was ghost writing and working with talent. I nearly sacrificed my education to pursue a love that didn’t love me back.

Creatives like Geoffrey Owens found a deeper love, and never fell out of it.

Just like teachers who love teaching but make next to nothing despite their advanced degrees. Or service and retail workers whose stories we will never know, but we too often take for granted because our interactions with them are so brief.

Hard work is hard work. No matter how many times a camera has been in your face. And this is why unions are important. To fight for and maintain the rights of the American worker. To ensure people like Professor Owens can still teach Shakespeare and put food on the table for their families. And to remember what Labor Day is truly about.

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