How A Contract Dispute Could Affect The Future Of ‘Being Mary Jane’

by Kayla Hawkins

BET's Being Mary Jane always brings shocking cliffhangers and the most thrilling twists, but behind the scenes, there's been a fair amount of drama as well. Will Being Mary Jane return for Season 5? Well, the season timeline is a little off right now, so it's not entirely clear what the series' future will be. There also haven't been any official announcements from BET about the show's future.

According to Deadline, the unexpected run of 10 episodes that aired in summer 2017 were technically a part of the fourth season of Being Mary Jane, but narratively, they seemed to functioned as more of a fifth season, with a whole new arc about Mary Jane's new life in New York and her new relationship with Justin.

And the news that the series would be airing something of a super-sized fourth season after just a short break was already something of a surprise after Deadline reported on the lawsuit star Gabrielle Union filed against BET in 2016. The article included an excerpt from her team's legal paperwork. The suit read, in part, that BET "wants to shoot 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." Her lawyers claimed that Union was due a raise from a reported $150,000 per episode in Season 4 to $165,000 in Season 5, and alleged that the network was purposefully attempting to lengthen the fourth season of Being Mary Jane in order to avoid paying Union the additional salary they claim she was owed, and for preventing her from seeking outside work because of the tight production schedule.

Less than a day later, Deadline added BET's response to the suit. “While we hold Gabrielle Union in the highest esteem," the statement said, "we feel strongly that we are contractually well within our rights and are committed to reaching a swift and positive resolution in this matter."

Two months later, Deadline reported that BET and Union settled the lawsuit in December 2016, well before the second half of the fourth season premiered. "BET Networks is pleased to announce that they have reached an amicable agreement with Gabrielle Union and look forward to sharing the [fourth] season of Being Mary Jane with its loyal fans beginning January 10, 2017," the network's statement read. Union did not give her own statement about the lawsuit resolution, but in an interview with Entertainment Tonight while the suit was still ongoing, Union claimed that her suit was about equal pay. "You know, I put in the same hours as most men — if not more — and I deserve to get paid the same," Union explained. "Equal pay. Equal work. That's how it should be. Yeah, and if you stand up for nothing, you'll fall for anything."

Considering that Union went on to produce the additional 10 Season 4 episodes after bringing this lawsuit, it sounds like she and the network on standing on more stable ground. So with all of that in mind, there's still more story to tell. Mary Jane has struggled and schemed to get her way up to an anchor position on a New York City morning show, which a fifth season could address. Per Deadline's initial report on the suit, it included stipulations about Union's break between seasons. So if those demands were indeed met, it could be several months before Season 5 begins shooting and even longer until it airs.

But if BET and star Gabrielle Union have come to an agreement that suits both the network and the actor, Being Mary Jane could still have a lot of life left in it.