EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films and Lionsgate have set Sanaa Lathan to play the role of CIA Deputy director Irene Kennedy in American Assassin, the Michael Cuesta-directed adaptation of the bestselling Vince Flynn thriller novel series. She joins Dylan O’Brien, who plays CIA black ops agent Mitch Rapp, Michael Keaton and Taylor Kitsch. Stephen Schiff wrote the script and Lorenzo di Bonaventura is producing with Nick Wechsler. The novel starts off a hoped-for film franchise with Rapp as a CIA recruit who is schooled by Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Keaton). They are tapped by Kennedy (Lathan) to investigate a wave of seemingly random attacks on military and civilian targets. All this leads to a joint mission with a deadly Turkish agent to stop a mysterious operative (Kitsch) aiming to start a World War in the Middle East.

The Kennedy character is to the 15 Flynn novels what M is to James Bond, rising to the post of CIA director as the novels progress. She is white in the books, but Lathan shone above a large number of actresses who tested for the job as an actress who could grow in the role as her character rises from running strike teams to the heights of power. She got the part. Last seen in Now You See Me 2, Lathan is repped by ICM.