UPDATE, 9:48 AM: More than 12 hours after Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union hit BET with a multimillion-dollar breach of contract lawsuit, the cabler has responded. And it doesn’t seem to be backing down.
“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,” a BET Network said in a statement this morning. Sources tells Deadline that BET plans to respond fairly quickly in the courts as well to the complaint from Union and her attorney Marty Singer seeking $3 million.
The core allegation in Union’s suit is that BET played a multi-season contractual shell game with her. Apparently, the two two sides first agreed she would have a significant break between the 10-episode fourth and fifth seasons of the drama. Then, according to Union’s camp, BET and Being Mary Jane producers threw that deal aside so production could to run back-to-back and costs cut. Added drama: The suit comes as production on Season 4 has already started
PREVIOUS, OCTOBER 11, 6:55 PM: The future of BET’s signature drama Being Mary Jane could be in doubt after its star Gabrielle Union filed a multimillion-dollar breach of contract lawsuit against the cable net today. “We filed this lawsuit because of BET’s outrageous conduct toward its No. 1 star on its highest rated show,” Union’s attorney Marty Singer told Deadline tonight.
Filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court, the 17-page suit (read it here) claims that although Union’s contract calls for no more than 13 episodes a season, BET ordered 10-episode fourth and fifth seasons of the series to be shot back-to-back. Union says she and the network agreed to those terms, as long as she got a break in filming.
Being Mary Jane has seen a series of negotiations between star and network since the show launched in 2013. Union and BET made a deal for maximum 13-episode seasons so the actress could continue to pursue movie roles.
BET did not respond to Deadline’s request for comment about the suit.
“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,” the suit says, “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.”
The suit says Union is due for a raise for every additional season the show airs. “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.”
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. Series producer Breakdown Productions also is a defendant in the suit, which claims breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
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