Terrence Howard Files Lawsuit Against CAA for 'Empire' Role Fraud

Acclaimed Actor Challenges Agency Over Contractual Inequities

by Zain ul Abedin
Terrence Howard Files Lawsuit Against CAA for 'Empire' Role Fraud
© Kevin Winter/Getty Images

In a groundbreaking legal move, acclaimed actor Terrence Howard, known for his stellar performances in "Crash" and "Hustle & Flow," has initiated a lawsuit against the prominent Creative Artists Agency LLC (CAA). Filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges fraudulent conduct by CAA about Howard's role in the hit television series "Empire." At the heart of the lawsuit is Howard's claim that CAA, his representation agency, prioritized their financial interests and those of the production companies they also represented over his own.

The actor, aged 54, contends that he was misled into accepting a lesser payment for his leading role in "Empire," a decision he based on a trust that he now feels was misplaced. The lawsuit details how Howard, aware that CAA was receiving a fee for securing the project, was uninformed of the agency's conflicting roles in representing actors and production companies.

Howard's legal team argues this dual representation led to a significant conflict of interest.

Compensation Dispute Unveiled

James Bryant, Howard's attorney, underscored the gravity of the situation, stating, "Mr. Howard will be filing a lawsuit based upon the repeated failures in duty by his agents." Bryant further highlighted the disparity in compensation, pointing out that Howard was consistently underpaid despite "Empire" generating over $125 million annually in advertising revenue for Fox.

The suit sheds light on the broader industry issue of actors striving for fair compensation for their work, while producers aim to keep production budgets as low as feasible. Howard's attorneys assert that CAA convinced the actor that his "Empire" salary was equitable, a belief he now challenges.

In a candid statement, Howard expressed his disillusionment, "I trusted CAA to look after me, and they looked after themselves." He also raised concerns about potential racial disparities in the industry, though stopping short of directly attributing his situation to race.

As Eyewitness News reached out to CAA for a comment, they await a response. Meanwhile, The Cochran Law Firm, representing Howard, noted that the lawsuit does not specify damages, but this will be assessed in due course. The lawsuit also references "Empire's" impressive debut, with the pilot episode attracting around 10 million viewers, marking Fox's highest-rated debut in three years, underscoring the show's and Howard's significant impact.