*Actors union SAG-AFTRA has now gotten involved on behalf of Gabrielle Union and the entire “Being Mary Jane” cast, who are accusing BET and series producer Breakdown Productions of violating their contract with the Union.
As we previously reported, the actress is suing the network for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. Union’s attorney, Marty Singer, alleges BET is trying to film two 10-episode seasons of “Being Mary Jane” back-to-back in an effort to “cram all of the episodes into a single season in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract.”
BET released a statement soon after Union’s lawsuit went public last month, stating: “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.”
Unsatisfied with the network’s response to Union’s lawsuit, SAG-AFTRA has decided to move forward with arbitration. Their official statement reads: “Regarding the series ‘Being Mary Jane,’ BET and Breakdown Productions continue to abuse the option pickup process and mask which season they are shooting in order to avoid paying contractually agreed upon raises. As a result, SAG-AFTRA is moving to arbitration on behalf of the entire cast.”
In addition, Union’s attorney told Deadline: “It is outrageous that BET and Viacom have been taking advantage of the actors who appear on their television series by attempting to get what amounts to free options without paying the actors the compensation they are entitled to under their agreements… We are extremely pleased that SAG-AFTRA is pursuing the claim against the Network to protect their members and prevent the network from engaging in this egregious conduct in the future.”
The move to arbitration by SAG-AFTRA is entirely separate from Gabrielle’s $3 million lawsuit against BET, which the network has not yet officially responded to in court, per Shadow and Act.
The suit states: “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, 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.”
Union says she never would have agreed to star in “Being Mary Jane” if network executives hadn’t assured her of the “no more than 13 episodes per season” requirement.