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May 23, 2005 Daily Journal
 

'WEST WING' STAR STIFFED AGENCY, LAWSUIT ALLEGES

By Draeger Martinez
 

  A talent agency claiming to represent Richard Schiff, who portrays high-strung White House staffer Toby Ziegler on "The West Wing," has sued Schiff for alleged breach of contract. The agency claims Schiff stiffed them on commissions stemming from his work on the long-running NBC drama.

  Bryan J. Freedman, who represents the plaintiff Paradigm Talent & Literary Agency in Beverly Hills, says his client seeks at least $90,000 in damages and residuals, plus declaratory relief, court costs and interest.

   "We still need to conduct discovery to determine the full extent of residuals earned and commissions earned by Mr. Schiff," says Freedman, a co-founder of Freedman & Taitelman in Century City. "There's still a season left unpaid, so the underlying financial numbers may change over time."

  Schiff "entered into an oral agent/performer talent agency agreement with [Paradigm], whereby the plaintiff agreed to provide agency representation services for Schiff," Freeman wrote in the court complaint. "In exchange for [their] services, Schiff agreed to pay the plaintiff a 10 percent commission on all monetary sums or other consideration earned by Schiff because they secured him the role during their watch, which began in 1997.

  Peter Nelson, a name partner of Nelson Felker Toczek Davis, who represents Schiff, declines to comment on the case. "west Wing" representatives Joe Libonati and Kristi Strupinsky could not be reached for comment. Paradigm Talent Agency v. Richard Schiff BC332491 (L.A. Super. Ct. amended complaint filed April 29, 2005).

  Schiff continued to pay Paradigm commissions for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons of "The West Wing" but nothing for the 2004-05 season, which ended last month, Freedman wrote. The actor allegedly owes Paradigm a 10th of his series salary, currently standing at $35,098 for each of the season's 22 episodes, generating roughly $128,000 in "residuals" or deferred compensation for Schiff, of which Paradigm also claims 10 percent.

  "We also intend to look into the defendant's residuals from cable and syndication," says Freedman, referring to "West Wing" reruns on Bravo and on local channels across the country.

  Freedman adds that Paradigm anticipates Schiff will continue to deny payment for future work on the show, which will move to Sunday nights for its seventh season this fall.

  NBC executives announced the move May 16 in their "upfront" presentations to advertisers. If and when that happens, the plaintiff will seek a share of Schiff's salary and residuals from that work, too, as well as a court declaration to enforce the payments.