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‘Couples Retreat’ actor’s suit accuses Universal Pictures of ‘whitewashing’ ad campaign

Stars of "Couples Retreat" pose for a photo. In the film, four Midwestern couples take a trip to a tropical island resort
In “Couples Retreat,” four Midwestern couples take a trip to a tropical island resort.
(John Johnson / Universal Pictures)

Faizon Love, who featured in the 2009 Vince Vaughn comedy “Couples Retreat,” has sued Universal Pictures for allegedly erasing the only Black principle actors from a poster for the movie and failing to make good on promises executives made to him.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Faizon Love accused Universal Pictures and the now-defunct Relativity Media of breach of contract, fraud and violation of California’s civil rights act.

His image, as well as that of Kali Hawk, who played his partner in the movie, was excised from posters promoting the movie internationally, an example, he said, of what is known as whitewashing. They were the only minority couple in the movie. The promotional posters featured three other couples, all of them white.

Faizon said he was suing now because Universal executives reneged on a promise to stop using the image as well as to offer him other acting jobs as a way to make up for the offense. Universal Pictures declined to comment.

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“Mr. Love has come to learn that Universal Studios’ willful discrimination against him is emblematic of Universal Studios’ (and its affiliated companies’) systemic bigotry against its employees, Black actors, on-screen talent and athletes,” the complaint read.

Love launched his suit in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the world. He is one of a number of performers of color who have been emboldened to share their experiences with racism in the entertainment industry, as studios showed solidarity with the movement.

“Social justice issues raised this year further galvanized my commitment to enter the fray and speak up for myself and for all Black actors by filing this lawsuit,” Love said in a statement to The Times.

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Love started in Hollywood as a stand-up comic and has also been featured in TV movies including “Elf” and the ABC series “black-ish”

In “Couples Retreat” a couple plan a trip to a tropical island to a retreat to work on their relationship. With them, they bring along three couple friends, including Shane and his girlfriend Trudy, played by Love and Hawk, all of whom are unaware they will also be forced to submit to outlandish therapy sessions.

Love and Hawk did feature in the posters used in the U.S, but are farthest in the background.

The pair were also excluded from the European media tour for the movie, Love said.

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The Times reported on the studio’s marketing move on the film at the time.


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