Terrence Howard Hires High-Powered LA Attorneys for Lawsuit Over ‘Empire’ Salary

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 6, 2015: Terrence Howard at the premiere of Fox's new TV series "Empire" at the Cinerama Dome, Hollywood. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Terrence Howard says he was underpaid for his role as Lucious Lyon on Empire, and he’s in the process of filing a lawsuit against his agents at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) for alleged “breach” of their duties.

Howard, 54, had a starring role on the hit Fox drama series throughout its network TV run.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, a rep for The Cochran Firm in Los Angeles announced the actor has retained the firm to file a civil lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court against CAA. Howard is alleging “breach of fiduciary duty” and other causes of action.

The Oscar-nominated actor and his attorneys have scheduled a news conference for Friday morning in L.A. to announce details on the lawsuit.

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Among Howard’s grievances, the actor alleges his agents at CAA — who packaged the Empire deal with Fox — “represented numerous parties including the show’s producers,” and “placed their interests and the interests of their other clients above Mr. Howard’s,” according to a media alert obtained by Urban Hollywood 411.

The veteran actor accuses his talent reps of “urging him to accept talent fees that were far less than what he should have been afforded.”

Before Empire, Howard had roles in the films Crash, Hustle & Flow, Four Brothers and Iron Man.

His attorneys say the actor was told the salary his agents negotiated for Empire was “industry standard,” but he recently discovered those statements “were untrue.”

The legal team goes on to state that Empire at one time was the No. 1 broadcast drama series for the 18-49 demographic, and averaged over $100 million a year in advertising revenue per season. Based on the show’s success, they say Howard “should have been entitled to a much higher salary.”

CAA did not immediately respond to Urban Hollywood 411‘s request for comment.

The Cochran Firm was co-founded by late trial attorney Johnnie Cochran, Jr., who famously represented O.J. Simpson in his 1994 murder trial for which he was acquitted. The firm’s website says over the years, it has secured $30 billion in verdicts and settlements.

Empire was created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, who also served as executive producers alongside Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Sanaa Hamri, Dennis Hammer, Matt Pyken and Diane Ademu-John. Brett Mahoney was executive producer and showrunner.

The series aired from 2015 to 2020, and ran for six seasons on Fox.

The drama focused on a hip-hop mogul, played by Howard, who was considering a successor among his three sons. As the men battled for control over the multi-million dollar company, the mogul’s ex-wife, played by Taraji P. Henson, schemed to reclaim what was hers.

The show’s main cast also included Jussie Smollett, Bryshere Y. Gray, and Trai Byers.

The series premiered on January 7, 2015, to nearly 10 million viewers and continued to climb in the ratings. But by season 5, the ratings had fallen off, at times plummeting to new series lows.

In May 2019, the show was renewed for a sixth and final season. The announcement that the series would be ending came amid controversy surrounding Jussie Smollett, who played Jamal Lyon.

In January 2019, Smollett claimed he was a victim of a hate crime on the streets of Chicago. Police later said the actor staged the attack and he was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed, but he was later charged and convicted during the years-long legal saga. Smollett maintained his innocence and is currently appealing his conviction.

Smollett was written off Empire in season 5 and did not return for the final season.

In September 2019, Howard voiced support for Smollett, saying things weren’t the same without him on set.

“It hurts,” the actor told the TV show Extra when asked how it felt not having Smollett around. “It’s like losing a son.”