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Terrence Howard Announces Lawsuit Against CAA Over "Empire" Salary

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty

Terrence Howard is suing the Creative Artists Agency (CAA)  for breach of fiduciary duty. Howard claims the agency that was supposed to represent his interests asked him to take a lower salary for his role as music mogul Lucious Lyon in the hit series, Empire, and that the agency did so to boost its own profits.

According to Variety, the complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court notes that Howard was paid less than what Jon Hamm was paid to star in Mad Men and what Kevin Spacey made for his role in House of Cards despite Empire, which aired on Fox for six seasons, having a larger viewership than both shows. The filing claims this was due in part to CAA’s packaging fee, which Howard was allegedly kept in the dark about.

From Variety:

CAA also represented the producers of “Empire” in a package deal that was lucrative for the agency, he says. As such, Howard’s legal strategy asserts, the agency did not act in his best interest by pushing for a higher salary because it had a profit participation stake through its package, so CAA had an interest in maximizing the total profit that 20th TV realized on the series. Since 2020, the practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees on TV series was essentially banned after the Writers Guild of America waged a nearly two-year battle against the Hollywood’s largest agencies to reform the decades-old practice.

The complaint, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages but doesn’t specify a dollar amount, also appears to implicate Empire co-creators and executive producers Lee Daniels and Danny Strong in the raw deal that also included the other co-stars on the show, all of whom are represented by CAA.

“Not only did it become abundantly clear that his agents led him on a path to rely on information that was misleading, he discovered that this was the result of the fact that CAA was not acting in his best interest, but in the in interest of their own financial benefit as well as the interest of the Production Companies and the producers, Daniels and Strong,” the complaint states. “Under normal circumstances, had CAA not been the packaging agent, and had CAA not been concurrently representing the Production Companies, where their sole financial interest would have been the 10% fee from the compensation received by Howard, they would have most certainly fought for Howard in a manner that most producers are accustomed to seeing CAA agents engage in.”

After a news conference announcing the lawsuit, Howard spoke with Rolling Stone, and while the Hustle & Flow actor didn’t say definitively that racism played a role in his alleged mistreatment, he certainly refused to rule it out.

“I can’t say for certain this was a racial issue, but I can’t imagine another counterpart – a white counterpart – with the same accolades, name recognition and numbers that I had, receiving the lowball pay that I was receiving,” he said.

“I drank the Kool-Aid,” he continued. “I believed that I was going to get paid, or that I was getting compensated properly, but I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to piss off CAA and Fox. They’re big companies to go to war against. But sooner or later you’ve got to stand up because they’re just trampling over the rights of the artists.”

Howard said his salary for the role of Lucious started at $125,000 and topped out at $325,000 per episode, which he said was far less than what he deserved, considering the massive success of the show.

Howard is being represented in the lawsuit by the attorneys with the Cochran Firm, James Bryan and Brian Dunn, and Carlos Moore of the Carlos Moore Law Group.

Terrence Howard Files Lawsuit Over ‘Empire’ Salary Claiming He Was Underpaid  was originally published on cassiuslife.com