BET Responds to Gabrielle Union’s Lawsuit as She Addresses ‘Birth of a Nation’ Boycott
Gabrielle Union is suing BET over rushed production.
In a 17-page lawsuit filed on Tuesday (Oct. 11, 2016) in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Union claims that BET agreed that they would not produce more than 13 episodes per season on Being Mary Jane. BET’s previous general counsel Darrell Walker told Union that she would not be required to appear in more than 13 episodes per season when she was approached for the role on the show, but her performer agreement included a minimum of 10 episodes and a maximum of 26 based on corporate policy. Given that there were eight episodes produced in Season 1 and 12 episodes in Season 2, Union’s reps renegotiated her contract so that she would be paid for 13 episodes, even if they didn’t produce that many. In 2015, they later requested to add an executive producer credit to her name and for a BET executive to be present on set during taping.
Instead, according to Union’s attorney, the network is combining Season 4 and Season 5 “in order to fraudulently extend the term of Ms. Union’s contract.” This will hinder Union’s expected pay raise from $150,000 per episode for Season 4 and $165,000 per episode for Season 5, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. Union is seeking damages of at least $3 million and an order that her contract is amended to reflect that she is only obligated to a maximum of 13 episodes per season.
BET responded to the lawsuit on Wednesday (Oct. 12, 2016) in a statement that said, “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.”
Union also spoke out in response to the boycott over her latest film, The Birth of a Nation, due to the resurfacing of Nate Parker and Jean Celestin’s rape allegations that were brought against them in 1999 while they were students at Penn State University. In her November cover story for Essence magazine, Union said that she understands the general public’s aversion to the film due to the controversy surrounding its writer, director, and star and Parker’s co-writer.
“As a rape survivor and as an advocate, I cannot shy away from this responsibility because the conversation got difficult,” wrote Union, who was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19. “I don’t want to put myself above anyone’s pain or triggers. Every victim or survivor, I believe you. I support you. I support you if you don’t want to see the film. I absolutely understand and respect that. I can’t sell the film.”
Union also wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times about the allegations back in September.
“On that night, 17-odd years ago, did Nate have his date’s consent? It’s very possible he thought he did,” penned Union. “Yet by his own admission he did not have verbal affirmation; and even if she never said ‘no,’ silence certainly does not equal ‘yes.’ Although it’s often difficult to read and understand body language, the fact that some individuals interpret the absence of a ‘no’ as a ‘yes’ is problematic at least, criminal at worst. That’s why education on this issue is so vital.”
Parker recently said in an interview with 60 Minutes that he would not apologize for the allegations brought against him and that he was “falsely accused.”