Terrence Howard Slams CAA Over ‘Empire’ Salary, Lawsuit in the Works

Terrence Howard Slams CAA Over ‘Empire’ Salary, Lawsuit in the Works

Terrence Howard announced at a news conference on Friday that he plans to file a lawsuit against the powerhouse talent agency CAA, claiming the company convinced him to take a lowball salary on Empire because it had a conflict of interest.

Howard was flanked by his longtime partner, Mira Pak, and his attorneys at a news conference held at the office of The Cochran Firm, where he called for “accountability” after claiming he was paid, at the most, $325,000 per episode to star as the ruthless music mogul Lucious Lyon for six seasons on the hit Fox series. It’s unclear when Howard will file the suit.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor claims that the figure is far below what he should have been compensated. One of his attorneys, James Bryant, claimed at the news conference that Howard asked what he would be getting paid to act in the series. Bryant claimed Howard got paid $325,000 per episode “at the height of what I was being paid” in season 6, and he was “never given a producer credit even though I rewrote most of the scenes and acted in the capacity of producer.”

Howard went on to claim that he was woefully underpaid by as much as 50 percent. Bryant said the lawsuit will state that the agency provided Howard with misleading information over salaries. Bryant claims Howard, as the leading actor of a major series, should have been getting paid similarly to what Kevin Spacey was making on House of Cards or Jon Hamm on Mad Men.

At its peak, Empire — also starring Taraji P. Henson — drew a whopping 17 million viewers. That figure came in the season 1 finale. Viewership, however, steadily dropped after season 3, and when the series wrapped, Empire was drawing just under 3 million viewers, per Deadline. But there’s no denying the acclaimed series was considered a monumental hit.

“Discovery will show that this was racism,” said one of Howard’s lawyers, Carlos Moore. “You won’t find in discovery that a white actor — Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-nominated — was treated like that.” Howard earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his role as DJay in the 2005 drama Hustle & Flow.

As for the conflict of interest, Howard alleges he was convinced to take a low salary because his agents prioritized the agency’s own interest and the show’s producers because CAA also represented the producers. ET has reached out to CAA for comment.  

“I trusted CAA to look after me,” said Howard, who is also being repped by Carlos Moore of The Carlos Moore Law Group. “And they looked after themselves.”

After the news conference, Howard spoke to Rolling Stone and explained why he is going to sue  CAA.

“You have all your agents telling you that you got the best deal possible, telling you, ‘Everything is good. Don’t worry, you’re going to get your money on the back-end. After we get to a hundred episodes, we’re going into syndication, and man, you’re gonna get paid, don’t rock the boat,'” he told the magazine. “I drank the Kool-Aid. 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.”


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