Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union is suing the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network for at least $3 million for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.
The 42-year-old actress stars as the title character in the series, which follows broadcast journalist Mary Jane Paul as she searches for her soulmate.
Three seasons have already aired, with the network confirming in January (16) that they had renewed it for a fourth season.
However, a lawsuit filed by Union's lawyer Marty Singer in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday (11Oct16), alleges that BET are trying to film season four and season five, both of which contain 10 episodes, consecutively.
"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," the suit claims. "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 is suing the network and Breakdown Productions for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, seeking general damages of at least $3 million requesting BET declare that they will not seek more than 13 episodes per season for Being Mary Jane.
Her contract currently states that Union will receive $150,000 per episode for season four, and $165,000 per episode for season five.
The suit states that when Union was initially approached to star in Being Mary Jane, she was unwilling to commit to a television series. However, BET then-boss Darrell Walker told Union's representative that the star wouldn't have to appear in any more than 13 episodes per season, but added that their corporate policy required her to sign a performer agreement which includes a provision allowing a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26.
The first season of Being Mary Jane featured eight episodes, while the second had 12. After the second season, Union's team renegotiated her contract to ensure that she would be paid for 13 episodes, regardless of whether or not BET produced that many.
Her contract was once again changed in 2015 to include a credit as executive producer and to require a BET executive to be physically on set during filming, at Union's request.
However, the suit states that Walker was given the role of being the executive on set - despite no longer working for BET and therefore having no authority to act on production issues.
Season three of the show wrapped in June, 2015, when the show runner also quit, meaning that season four had a delayed start to filming, only beginning last month (Sep16). Union claims in the suit that she wasn't informed that BET were planning to air 20 episodes as season four and five combined until a week before principal photography began.
BET has yet to respond to the lawsuit.