Faizon Love Sues Universal Studios Over Couples Retreat Racist Poster – Why 11 Years Later?

Faizon Love: Black Actor Racism Lawsuit Against Universal Pictures Moves Forward

Attorneys Seek Testimony from Universal Execs Adam Fogelson, Ron Meyer and Michael Moses Over Faizon Love’s Erasure from “Couples Retreat” Movie

Los Angeles (December 6, 2020) – Film star and comedian Faizon Love has asked a California court to order three top current and former Universal executives to provide depositions about their roles in directing the studio’s racist actions in marketing the 2009 film “Couples Retreat,” according to a motion filed this week by Love’s law firm Browne George Ross O’Brien Annaguey & Ellis LLP (“BGR”).

The motion in Superior Court in Los Angeles seeks expedited discovery from Adam Fogelson, the former Chairman of Universal Studios; Ron Meyer, the now retired chairman of NBCUniversal; and Michael Moses, the current President of Worldwide Marketing for Universal Pictures.

The lawsuit and motion say it is believed that all three studio executives were responsible for the removal of Love’s name and image, along with that of co-star Kali Hawk, from international marketing posters for the hit film. They were the only Black stars of the film, and Love’s contract with Universal guaranteed him star billing on par with six of his co-stars, including in advertising and promotional materials for the film.

Couples Retreat Racist Poster and Original Poster with Faizon Love and Kali Hawk(3)
Couples Retreat Racist Poster and Original Poster with Faizon Love and Kali Hawk(3)

Love and Hawk appeared in those materials in the U.S., but were erased from international efforts. The studio also refused to invite Love to participate in the European press tour for the film’s initial foreign release, the suit states.

“It’s vital that we are able to question these powerful industry executives under oath as soon as possible,” said Love’s lead attorney, Eric George, of Browne George Ross O’Brien Annaguey & Ellis LLP (“BGR”). “Their testimony will show exactly how Universal Studios was and is practicing overt racism that perpetuates the second-class treatment of Black talent in Hollywood – and how that racism begins at the very top.”

Love’s legal complaint alleges that all three executives played a role in either carrying out this racist treatment of Love, or making false promises to Love in the wake of his removal from the poster. Fogelson apologized for the racist poster and assured Love the racist poster would not be used going forward – yet in July 2020, Love discovered Universal continues to use the racist posters in direct violation of his contract, according to the lawsuit.

The Lawsuit alleges that Meyer and Fogelson promised Love more starring opportunities if he did not publicly or legally pursue the issue – yet none have materialized. By nature of his position then and now Moses is believed to have some responsibly for Love’s removal and the studio’s policy of removing Black actors from international posters. Given that these actions have gone uncorrected for 12 years, Love felt he was left with no choice but to sue Universal for breach of contract as well as fraud and violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act for intentional discrimination, because Love is Black.

A Decade of Second-Class Treatment

Love has been a successful performer as a stand-up comedian, film and television actor, and voice-over artist for more than 30 years. He has more than 75 acting credits – including lead roles in the hit holiday film “Elf” and the cult classic “Friday.” Because of his experience and success, he was chosen for a lead role in “Couples Retreat.” He agreed to a lesser salary for the film because he believed the role would provide him an opportunity for additional high-profile film and TV roles in the future, the suit states.

In 2009 Universal Studios was within the corporate structure of the General Electric Co., and the decision-makers who removed Love from the advertising were under the supervision of Fogelson, who is now chairman of STX Films, the suit alleges. The lawsuit also alleges that Fogelson and the film’s producer, Scott Stuber, now head of original programming for Netflix, personally promised Love the racist poster would be taken out of publication and they would provide new opportunities to him.

The lawsuit alleges that the wrong perpetrated against Love in 2009 continues to this day now under Universal’s current ownership, Comcast. Comcast owns Universal through the NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment division of its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal, which both then and now has a stark lack of diversity, according to the lawsuit.

Continuing to see the “Love-less” promotional materials on websites around the world – including Europe, Latin America and Asia – as well as on major websites like MSN.com and Sonychannel.com, has resulted in both lost professional opportunities for Love and an immensely painful reminder of the walls Universal and other studios erect to stymie Black success.

“This film was a huge success for Universal, but instead of honoring my work and my contract, the studio chose to render me invisible to billions of moviegoers around the world,” Love said. “They took away from me an opportunity to expand my profile across the world, and that is exactly what I contracted for when I agreed to appear in the movie.”

Love said he filed the lawsuit “not just for the wrong committed against me, but for the discriminatory practices against Blacks and people of color in the entertainment industry. I want to ensure that future generations don’t have to endure the racism and whitewashing that I have experienced.”

The lawsuit is especially significant in 2020, in the wake of the racial justice movement and the Motion Picture Academy’s pledge to address the historic lack of diversity in Academy Award nominations spotlighted by the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

For more information about Love’s lawsuit, please contact Sam Singer at Singer Associates Public Relations in San Francisco.

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