EXCLUSIVE: Last August, BET+ announced Sacrifice, an original movie headlined by Paula Patton. Written, executive produced and directed by Chris Stokes, the movie was designed to serve as backdoor pilot for a potential series. The thriller debuted on Dec. 19 as BET Networks streaming service’s first original film.
Six months later, on June 18, the original options on the cast expired. In the days leading to the expiration date, business affairs and casting executives from BET reached out to the Sacrifice series regulars, asking them to extend their contracts for six additional weeks without additional pay, I have learned.
Citing the challenges faced by the industry amid the coronavirus pandemic, BET informed the cast that series orders had been delayed across the company, including a pickup decision on Sacrifice, I hear. The network went on to request “gratis extensions” until July 31 to give it more time.
Granting extensions, even short-term, without additional payment, is not common practice, according to sources in the talent community. Rank-and-file actors have very few employment opportunities these days amid production shutdown and depressed economy, so they rely on any additional income to keep them afloat. That makes BET’s request to the Sacrificed cast ironic given the title of the movie/backdoor pilot. I hear multiple cast members declined to grant extensions with no compensation, facing potential recasting if the project goes to series.
The coronavirus pandemic brought Hollywood production to a halt in mid-March, with a slew of pilots and seasons of TV series unfinished or delayed. That created a predicament for many networks and studios, prompting weeks of discussions between TV executives and SAG-AFTRA representatives over interpretations of the language in actors’ contracts as the current shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic is without precedent. In the end, all major TV studios, including BET ViacomCBS sibling CBS TV Studios, paid the actors from their COVID-19-impacted pilots to be able to extend their options.
“Sacrifice is still in the development phase for a potential series pickup with casting ongoing,” a BET spokesperson said in a statement to Deadline. “A decision to turn the film into a series has not yet been made. Because of production uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, BET offered the entire cast the option to be extended while development continued. Although the project is not in production, the window of extension included flexibility for the talent to do other work. We will advise when new developments on this project become available.”
Los Angeles-set Sacrifice stars Patton as Daniella Hernandez, a highly sought after entertainment lawyer. The legal thriller tracks Daniella as she navigates the nefarious lives of her rich and famous clients. Daniella has a reputation that proves problematic to LA Law enforcement, forcing her to be at odds with her sorority sister turned nemesis District Attorney Beverly Rucker (Erica Ash). In an attempt to protect her often unscrupulous clients, Daniella enlists the services of her resourceful assistant and a young ex-hacker and tech genius.
The cast also includes Juan Antonio as hip artist and mogul Dominiq Mayfield aka Big Dom; V. Bozeman as Tamika Bland, Daniella’s loyal and resourceful assistant; Altonio Jackson as ex-hacker Steven Somwon; Nelson Bonilla as Miguel, Daniella’s trusted driver; Michael Toland as Arnold Lang, the founding partner of Daniella’s firm; James Trevena Brown as Joshua Lang, Arnold Lang’s son; Liliana Montenegro as Gabriella Hernandez, Daniella’s Spanish-speaking aunt; Marques Houston as Jason Pratt a young Assistant District Attorney; and Josué Ramon Gutierrez, a client of Daniella’s and Dom’s biggest hip hop rival. Here is the movie’s trailer:
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