An actors’ labor union is backing Gabrielle Union and her “Being Mary Jane” cast for her lawsuit filed last week.
Deadline reported The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists sent a complaint to Viacom on Oct. 13.
The letter proclaims Breakdown Productions wrongly tried to extend Union’s contract. That included those of “BMJ” castmembers like Omari Hardwick and Lisa Vidal. It also stated the cast is not required to participate in BET’s subsequent fifth season.
In Union’s lawsuit, she alleges the network attempted to “cram all of the episodes into a single season… to fraudulently extend” her contract. The network aimed to film 20 episodes of the popular series with no break in between to crank out seasons four and five consecutively. Production already started on the fourth season.
SAG-AFTRA’s letter states production with the entire “BMJ” cast will halt. During that time they will discuss another season option, a rise in actors’ salaries and the cast’s receipt of payment for the difference in the rates for seasons four and five. Should Breakdown and BET not agree to those terms, “the labor action of a formal arbitration” will follow.
A source told Deadline the lawsuit Union brought against the network was always meant to serve her castmates and herself. The filing argued Union was approached for “Being Mary Jane” three years ago. Part of the agreement was for each season to not go beyond 13 episodes. That allowed Union to continue making movies. There also needed to be a mandatory break between shoots each season.
Union is seeking up to $3 million in damages.
Although BET did not respond to SAG-AFTRA’s letter, they issued a statement standing by the present contract with Union last week.
“While we hold Gabrielle Union in the highest esteem,” it began, we feel strongly that we are contractually well within our rights and are committed to reaching a swift and positive resolution in this matter.”