Gabrielle Union has brought glamour and grace to the role of news anchor Mary Jane Paul for BET’s Being Mary Jane series. However, Union has filed a lawsuit against the network for trying to shorten her pay by combining the fourth and fifth seasons of the show.
The Hollywood Reporter exclusively reports that Union filed the lawsuit because it appears that BET wants to truncate the upcoming seasons to get the most out of her contract. The series has a reportedly contractual obligation to produce no more than 13 shows per season but there are plans to cram two back to back 10-episode seasons of the program into one season.
Union’s attorney Martin Singer claims the network is combining seasons four and five to avoid paying his client’s 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 four and $165,000 per episode for season five.
The actress is suing the network and Breakdown Productions for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
At the time she was approached for Being Mary Jane, Union was a movie star and didn’t want to commit to a typical network TV series, according to the suit. BET’s then-general counsel Darrell Walker assured Union’s representatives that the actress wouldn’t be required to appear in more than 13 episodes per season — but a corporate policy required her performer agreement to include a provision allowing for a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26.
Being Mary Jane is one of BET’s few original programs and has a supportive fan base. BET rewarded Union by amending her contract last year and making her an executive producer along with other perks. The series ran into trouble after concluding its third season, but the fourth season had already been underway when Union was reportedly notified of BET’s decision to cram the seasons.
BET has not publicly responded to the matter.