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Actor Terrence Howard Sues CAA Saying He Wasn't Paid Properly For "Empire" Role

Terrence Howard is suing his former agency CAA for breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud and fraudulent representation.

Howard said Friday he’s suing CAA for breach of fiduciary duty because the talent agency allegedly urged him to take a “lowball” salary deal for the hit TV show Empire due to a conflict.

The actor, who portrayed hip-hop music mogul Lucious Lyon on six seasons of the celebrated Fox drama, claims CAA failed to act in his best interest because it also represented Empire’s producers in a package deal. CAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“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,” Howard told Rolling Stone after a press conference Friday that he attended with his longtime partner Mira Pak.

The Oscar nominee for Hustle & Flow said he finds it objectionable that actor Jim Parsons was being paid significantly more per episode of Big Bang Theory in 2015 when Empire debuted and eventually surpassed the sitcom in viewership. He said he tried to re-negotiate his contract alongside co-star Taraji P. Henson, but he never got much traction. He started out earning $125,000 per episode and never got higher than $325,000 per episode, he said.

“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 tells Rolling Stone. “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.”

Howard, 54, was due to file his lawsuit Friday with lawyers James Bryant and Brian Dunn of The Cochran Firm and Carlos Moore of The Carlos Moore Law Group.

“Mr. Howard is here today to ask for justice,” Bryant said at the press conference announcing the complaint. “Mr. Howard was unaware that his self-dealing agents were providing him information that was just simply inaccurate.” He said that when Howard asked for comparisons to guide his negotiations, they gave him compensation numbers for shows like CSI instead of House of Cards, Mad Men and Game of Thrones. He said Howard was “duped” into “being underpaid time and time again.”

“I believe discovery will show that this was racism,” Moore said. “I believe it will become abundantly clear why CAA put their own self-interests above Mr. Howard’s. This lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg. We believe there are other similarly situated actors who may have been duped by CAA.”

Howard, who starred in the 2005 movie Crash and 2008’s Iron Man, has faced prior accusations of domestic abuse. But he told reporters Friday that he’s aware his lawsuit “might be a death blow” to his career in mainstream Hollywood, but he’s seeking “accountability.” “It’s about being a whistleblower,” he said.

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