Parker Sawyers, Jesse I Usher
Parker Sawyers, Jesse I Usher

Two noteworthy casting announcements from over the weekend…

First, Parker Sawyers, who played a young Barack Obama in this summer’s indie crowd-pleaser “Southside With You” has joined the cast of HBO’s drama pilot “Succession,” directed and executive produced by “The Big Short’s” Adam McKay.

Sawyers joins Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen. Hiam Abbass, Alan Ruck, Rob Yang,  and Peter Friedman in a project penned by Jesse Armstrong, which follows the saga of the Roys, a fictional American media family that is not only rich and powerful but also powerfully dysfunctional. The drama will explore family loyalty, international business and the perils of power in the 21st century.

Sawyers will play a character named Alessandro, who is described as a young, bright, up-and-coming executive at the family firm.

“Succession” is executive produced by Will Ferrell, Frank Rich, Kevin Messick and Ilene S. Landress.

Sawyers is repped by CAA and 42mp in London.

And second, Jessie T Usher (star of the LeBron James-produced Starz dramedy series “Survivor’s Remorse”) has booked a starring role alongside Bella Thorne and Will Brill in indie company Unified Pictures’ thriller “Ride,” which marks the directorial debut of Jeremy Ungar.

Set in our technology-obsessed society, Jesse T Usher plays a ride-share driver, and Bella Thorne plays his passenger, as they pick up the charismatic but manipulative passenger (Will Brill) who turns a normal Los Angeles night into a psychological battle for survival.

The project is part of an initiative by Unified Pictures fund, in partnership with Look to the Sky Films and The Fyzz Facility, to produce three genre films a year for five years, with budgets of up to $10 million per picture. Relatively cheap (by Hollywood standards) genre films can at times be immensely profitable; this year has seen films like the horror/thriller “Lights Out,” released by New Line, which cost $5 million to make, and went on to gross $150 million worldwide; bout half of that total coming from domestic ticket sales. For a *smaller* indie production/distribution company or financier, that kind of return can be game-changing.

Usher, who appeared in this summer’s far more expensive ($165 million budget) and much less profitable ($389 million global box office) “Independence Day” sequel is repped by CAA and MGMT Entertainment.