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Gabrielle Union Sues BET over ‘Being Mary Jane’ Contract, Network Responds

Gabrielle Union (@gabunion Instagram)
Gabrielle Union (@gabunion Instagram)

Gabrielle Union is suing the “Being Mary Jane” network BET over contractual issues.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court Tuesday, the actress alleged BET is combining the series’ fourth and fifth seasons to prolong her contract and decrease her earnings. Because of this, Union is suing BET and Breakdown Productions for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.

The Hollywood Reporter obtained the documents. In them, Union’s lawyer Martin Singer said BET agreed never to record more than 13 episodes each season. The suit cites Union’s status as a movie star as the reason why she “did not want to commit to a typical network television series schedule with 20 or more episodes per season” since that would hinder her film career.

Darrell Walker, former general counsel of BET, promised Union would not need to shoot more than 13 episodes each season. However, corporate policy ordered Union to include a contractual provision to produce as much at 26 episodes, with 10 being the minimum.

And now, according to the suit, the network is looking to produce two 10-episode seasons at once. The effort aims to “cram all of the episodes into a single season in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract.”

After “Being Mary Jane” lost its showrunner last summer, season four’s shooting was delayed until September. A week before principal photography began, Union learned BET intended to use all 20 episodes as season four.

The actress’ contract stated she should get $150,000 per episode during season four and $165,000 per episode in season five. But the suit claims BET is attempting to circumvent Union’s required raise so it can lengthen its option to keep her services for next year.

When BET created just eight episodes for the first season of “Being Mary Jane” and 12 for the second, Union’s team renegotiated her contract. It required the network to pay its star for 13 episodes, regardless of the amount BET ordered. Her reps added another change last year, which led to Union gaining an executive producer credit. It also demanded a network executive’s presence on set. Walker became that person, even though he no longer worked for BET and could not react to problems with production.

Union wants an excess of $1 million in damages and a requirement that her contract is revised to show a maximum of 13 episodes per season on “Being Mary Jane.”

Today, BET responded to the complaint with the following statement.

“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.”

Sources close to the network told Deadline BET will “respond fairly quickly” to the lawsuit.

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