Geoffrey Owens
Screenshot | ABC | Good Morning America

Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens has traded in his grocery store cashier uniform for a suit and tie to play a senator in Tyler Perry‘s The Haves and the Have Nots on OWN.

Just last month, Owens was job-shamed with headlines that mocked him for working at a Trader Joe’s grocery store in New Jersey. Today, Owens is on the set of OWN’s most popular show working alongside Perry for an 11-episode run that might turn into something more.

Perry watched Owens give a very gracious and humble interview to Robin Roberts last month (sporting a hat from his alma mater Yale as well as a Trader Joe’s badge) and like many people, Perry felt great empathy for Owens. Unlike most people though, Perry had the means to actually do something about it.

“I called him up and the next week I had written him into 11 shows,” said Perry in an interview with Good Morning America. “But when he showed up the first day, I saw him in costume, I had 20,000 more ideas running in my head for him.”

Owens was of course flattered by the offer, which first came in the form of a tweet.

“There is a little sense of mischief, I think, to Tyler as well as generosity because, you know, I had just said, ‘I don’t think I would really feel comfortable getting offered work, you know, because of the situation,'” said Owens. “And darn. What does he do? He offers me work.”

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Larger than the Moment

Perry has first-hand experience with personal and professional low points. At one time, Perry was homeless, sleeping in his car and as he puts it “struggling, wondering how I was going to pay the bills.” Now, Perry presides over a thriving film and television production empire worth millions of dollars.

“To get this place, just to have seen both sides of this, has been really incredible,” he said. “And that’s why I feel like … I’m the guy for the underdog.”

But the lessons run both ways on the set. In the GMA interview, Perry acknowledged that he definitely has learned a thing or two from watching Owens (who teaches Shakespeare at Yale) perfect his craft.

As for Owens, he believes this entire ordeal might be for a greater good.

“Maybe this is the cause that’s actually going to bridge the divide in our country,” said Owens. “Maybe this is it. This is the way that we come together.”

Watch the entire interview below: