“Empire” star Terrence Howard is suing CAA for breach of fiduciary duty, saying the talent agency allegedly asked him to take a lower salary for the popular show. He outlined his claims at a Friday press conference.
Howard played music mogul Lucious Lyon for six seasons of the Fox drama, produced by Imagine Entertainment and what was then 20th Century Fox TV. He claims that because CAA also represented the producers of “Empire” in a package deal that was lucrative for the agency. 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.
Howard also asserted that the situation he experienced on “Empire” also has racial overtones.
“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 told Rolling Stone after the press conference.
“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,” he said to Rolling Stone.
Howard says that though “Empire” eventually amassed more viewers than “Big Bang Theory,” he was being paid less than the sitcom’s star Jim Parsons. His pay started at $125,000 and topped out at $325,000 per episode, he said.
The press conference was held at the Los Angeles offices of the Cochran Firm, whose lawyers James Bryan and Brian Dunn are representing Howard along with Carlos Moore of the Carlos Moore Law Group.