UPDATE: BET Responds To Gabrielle Union’s Lawsuit Over Being Mary Jane Contract
BET has issued a statement in response to Gabrielle Union’s lawsuit:
“While we hold Gabrielle Union in the highest esteem, we feel strongly that we are contractually well within our rights and are committed to reaching a swift and positive resolution in this matter.”
Sources tell Deadline the Network plans to respond quickly in court as well.
Just as we were getting started for the next season of Being Mary Jane, we’ve learned that all is not well behind the scenes. Gabrielle Union is suing BET and Breakdown Productions for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
When Union was first approached to star in Being Mary Jane she was hesitant to commit to a TV series because of the schedule, but “BET’s then-general counsel Darrell Walker assured Union’s representatives that the actress wouldn’t be required to appear in more than 13 episodes per season — but a corporate policy required her performer agreement to include a provision allowing for a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26,” The Hollywood Reported stated.
According to Deadline, that’s the matter the actress took issue with.
“Although BET represented and assured Ms. Union before she agreed to perform in Being Mary Jane that it would never produce more than thirteen (13) episodes per season of the series, BET now wants to shoot twenty (20) episodes of the series back-to-back and cram all of the episodes into a single season in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract, with no additional consideration, and to deprive Ms. Union of her agreed-upon compensation for the next two seasons of Being Mary Jane,” the suit reportedly states. It is outrageous that BET would treat one of its biggest stars in this manner after all she has done to support the network and contribute to its success.”
Because season 1 of the show only had eight episodes and season 2 had 12, Union’s legal team renegotiated her contract so she would be paid for 13 episodes, even if BET didn’t order that many. “In 2015, her contract was amended again to include an executive producer credit and to require that at Union’s request a BET executive be physically on set during taping, according to the complaint,” THP said. “The suit also claims that Walker has been appointed the executive on set despite no longer being a BET employee and having no authority to act in response to production issues.”
The other issue is Union is to receive a pay raise with each season, and if season 5 episodes are pushed into season 4, she won’t get that increase.
“By way of example, for Season Four of the Series, the Agreement provides that Plaintiffs are to be paid $150,000 per episode for a minimum of thirteen (13) episodes of the Series, and for Season Five of the Series the Agreement provides that Plaintiffs are to be paid $165,000 per episode for a minimum of thirteen (13) episodes of the Series,” the suit states.
It’s for that reason that “Union is seeking general damages of at least $3 million and a declaration that BET cannot seek more than 13 episodes for any season of Being Mary Jane,” Deadline reported.
According to THP, taping for BMJ didn’t begin filming until just last month and Union wasn’t notified until a week before principal photography began that BET was going to run all 20 episodes as season four. This comes out just after Union’s cover for the November 2016 issue of Essence in which she talked about being added as a producer on the hit BET series, saying:
“For the first time in my whole career, I’ve actually been invited to the writer’s room. I walked in there as if I was meeting the Pope.
“I don’t just want to be a hired gun. I want to have a little bit more control over the narrative. The only way I can be empowered to do that is to be a producer. Now with as many projects that will have me, it’s part of the deal.”
Unfortunately, it sounds like BET doesn’t quite want to own up to that deal.