The actress, who starred as news anchor Mary Jane Paul on the journalism drama, was forced to sue the network back in 2016 after Union claimed the show’s producers reneged on an agreement to have a significant break between seasons four and five.
“I learned that if it’s not in writing, no one is obliged to do anything,” Union told ESSENCE last week after giving a keynote address at the #BlogHer18 Creators Summit in New York City.
“Not even what they promised,” she continued. “No matter how cool you think you are with whoever, at the end of the day, people will work [toward] what puts more money in their pocket.”
The lawsuit was settled in December 2016 with the network saying in a statement, “BET Networks is pleased to announce that they have reached an amicable agreement with Gabrielle Union and look forward to sharing the new season of Being Mary Jane with its loyal fans beginning January 10, 2017.”
It was announced last year that after five seasons Being Mary Jane would come to an end in a two-hour movie set to air this year.
The actress, who’s currently filming Bad Boys spin-off, L.A.’s Finest, said the lawsuit made her realize that standing up for herself — for “even the small things” — is necessary to her own self care, even if it meant going against cultural norms.
“I was afraid to [hit] back because I didn’t want to perpetuate infighting within my own people,” Union admitted. “But at the end of the day, BET is not Black-owned. It’s owned by Viacom. It’s David and Goliath.”
“I’m just one Black actress, on one cable show, on one network [that’s] part of a conglomerate. But I was told something. I was promised something,” she continued. “For me, I [thought] I can stand up and try to fight, or I can go to my grave feeling like a piece of s–t for not standing up.”
And that’s a lesson we could all learn from.