Gabrielle Union Sues BET Over “Being Mary Jane”
It’s time for BET to lawyer up! Gabrielle Union has headed to court, over the network’s hit series, Being Mary Jane. According to a lawsuit filed by the actress, she claims the network agreed it would never produce more than 13 episodes per season. However, she says that they are now trying to tape two 10-episode seasons back-to-back to
cram all of the episodes into a single season in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract.
Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, her attorney Martin Singer claims BET is combining seasons four and five, in order to avoid paying Union’s contractual raise and to extend its option to engage her services for another year. Reportedly, in her contract, she is set to receive $150,000 per episode for season four and $165,000 per episode for season five.
She is suing the network and Breakdown Productions for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
In the suit, she says prior to signing on, Union was a movie star and didn’t want to commit to a typical network TV series. She was assured by BET’s then-general counsel Darrell Walker that she wouldn’t be required to appear in more than 13 episodes per season. However, a corporate policy required her performer agreement to include a provision that allowed for a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26. According to a report,
BET only produced eight episodes in the first season and 12 in the second. This prompted her reps to renegotiate 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. 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.
After season three wrapped in June 2015, the series lost its showrunner. So season four didn’t start filming until last month. Union wasn’t notified until a week before principal photography began that BET intended to slate all 20 episodes as season four.
Union never would have agreed to star in Being Mary Jane if BET executives hadn’t assured her they’d shoot no more than 13 episodes, according to the complaint. She’s seeking damages of at least $1 million and an order that her contract be amended to reflect that there be a maximum of 13 episodes per season.
Being Mary Jane is a drama TV series created by Mara Brock Akil that debuted January 7, 2014, on BET. The series follows professional and personal life of successful TV news anchor Máry Jane Paul who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
BET has not commented on the lawsuit.