UPDATE 10/12: Less than a day after news of star Gabrielle Union’s lawsuit filed against the cable TV network for “breach of contract,” BET has issued a statement in response to the actress’ allegations: “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.”
I’m sure BET brass certainly would like to settle this as quickly as possible, if only for the sake of the show – one of its few original scripted series, and one that’s been a hit for them, with a loyal fan base. It would be in the best interest of all parties, I assume.
A question that immediately begs to asked is why it had to come to this – Union having to file a lawsuit, therefore making the entire matter public. I would like to think that BET would handle something like this privately, because it has to be embarrassing for them.
But I suspect this will be resolved swiftly and to the satisfaction of both sides, and the show will go on.
Below is last night’s (10/11) original report on Union’s suit.
On the heels of yesterday’s announcement that Michael Ealy is joining the cast of BET’s hit drama series “Being Mary Jane,” comes news that the star of the series, Gabrielle Union has filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the cable TV network (and series producer Breakdown Productions) in Los Angeles County Superior Court today, citing “negligent misrepresentation” and “breach of contract,” leaving the future of the series, which was set to return in early 2017, uncertain at this time.
Via a copy of the lawsuit (obtained by Deadline – read it here), Union claims that, per her contract, BET would never produce more than 13 episodes per season, so that the actress could also be free to pursue movie roles; but the network is currently trying to “cram all of the episodes [two 10-episode seasons back-to-back, without a previously agreed upon break between filming] into a single season in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract.” Union says she and the network agreed to those terms, as long as she got a break in filming.
Under her contract, Union is due for a raise for every additional season the show airs, the suit says. Union is set to receive $150,000 per episode for season four and $165,000 per episode for season five. Union’s attorney Martin Singer claims the network is essentially combining the 4th and 5th seasons of the series into one shoot, in order to avoid paying his client’s contractual raise (from $150K to $165K), and, in doing so, fraudulently extends its option to keep her tied to the network for an extended year (I assume, should they want a 6th season of “Being Mary Jane”).
The suit states: “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. 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.”
Union says she never would have agreed to star in “Being Mary Jane” if BET executives hadn’t assured her of the “no more than 13 episodes per season” requirement, according to the complaint. She wasn’t notified of BET’s plans to slot 20 episodes for season four until a week before principal photography began last month. The actress is seeking damages of at least $3 million and a formal declaration that BET cannot seek more than 13 episodes for any season of “Being Mary Jane.”
At the end of the series’ last season, creator and showrunner Mara Brock Akil (and director Salim Akil) left the network and set up shop at Warner Bros. TV studios, where they currently have a deal, with 2 potential series in development. They were replaced by Will Packer (to executive produce), and “The Good Wife” co-executive producer Erica Shelton Kodish (to serve as showrunner and executive produce as well) for the series’ upcoming 4th season.
BET has not yet publicly responded to the lawsuit.