Gabrielle Union Sues BET Over Being Mary Jane For Allegedly Depriving Her of 'Agreed-Upon Compensation'
Gabrielle Union is suing BET and Breakdown Productions for violating the terms of her contract for the show Being Mary Jane.
Union filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the actress is suing for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, claiming the network is combining seasons four and five to lower her pay and extend her contract.
According to the suit, Union, 42, alleges BET agreed it would never produce more than 13 episodes of the drama per season, but is now trying to film two 10-episode seasons back-to-back in an effort to “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.”
According to the lawsuit, Union alleges the network is attempting to avoid paying her contractual raise and to extend its option to engage her services for another year. Under her contract, Union is set to receive $150,000 per episode for season 4 and $165,000 per episode for season 5.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Union’s behalf, the actress’ lawyer Marty Singer said: “We filed this lawsuit because of BET’s outrageous conduct toward its number one star on its highest rated show.”
BET also issued a statement, telling PEOPLE: “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.”
When Union was approached for Being Mary Jane in 2012, she “was a motion picture star and did not want to commit to a typical network television series schedule with 20 or more episodes per season, because doing so would make it difficult for her to continue to work in motion pictures,” according to the suit.
BET’s then-general counsel, Darrell Walker, assured Union’s representatives that she would not be required to appear in more than 13 episodes per season. However, a corporate policy required Union’s performer agreement to include a provision allowing for a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26.
The network produced only eight episodes in its first season and 12 episode in season 2. As a result, Union’s reps renegotiated her contract so she would be paid for 13 episodes, even if BET didn’t order that many. According to the suit, in 2015, her contract was amended once again to include an executive producer credit and to require that, at Union’s request, a BET executive be physically on set during tapings.
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The suit also alleges Walker was appointed the executive on set despite no longer being a BET employee and having no authority to “immediately resolve issues as they arise on set.”
According to the suit, although problems have arisen on set during the season 4 shooting, “Walker admitted to [Union’s manager Jeff Morrone] that he is only there as a favor to [BET’s President of Programming Stephen Hill] and that he has no real authority to act on behalf of BET to resolve problems and that he had hoped to leave by the first week of shooting.”
The lawsuit also points to an issue that arose after season 3 wrapped production in June 2015, when the series lost its showrunner. Season 4 didn’t begin filming until last month, and Union alleges she wasn’t notified until a week before principal photography began that BET intended to slate all 20 episodes as season 4.
Union is seeking in excess of $1,000,000 in damages and an order that her contract be amended to reflect that there be a maximum of 13 episodes per season.
According to a recently released teaser trailer, Being Mary Jane season 4 is set to premiere January on BET.